I was stalked at a gas station by a city cop. He left the gas station and waited behind a nearby building for me to leave. He immediately pulled me over and said he ran my plates and they showed expired which they were by 5 weeks. He then pulled me out and said because I have a criminal history (2 counts distribution of cs in 2011) he had probable cause to search my vehicle. So he searched and almost immediately pulled out a spoon and needle. He read me my rights and asked if it was mine. I said "you found it in my car." I did not say it's mine. He wrote a citation for cs possession of paraphernalia and expired registration. I'm not sure where in my car he found it and he never checked me, patted me down for weapons or contraband. I'm not sure where it was, how long it had been in there or who left it. But he found it nearly right away and I've been through my car enough to know it wasn't anywhere obvious.
Criminal history is never probable cause to search a vehicle. When a police officer pulls you over for a routine traffic violation, they must limit the scope of the stop to what is reasonably necessary to issue the citation and let you be on your way. It sounds to me like the officer may have committed some serious violations of constitutional law. Under Utah law, if the constitution is violated by a government actor, you may be able to suppress evidence against you that was obtained through unlawful means. Get a lawyer to analyze this in more detail. He may be able to craft a motion to suppress on your behalf and it is possible your case could be dismissed.
Search and seizure issues are never cut and dried. The officer's report will likely contain other information that he relied on to justify the search. I'm not saying the officer is telling the truth-- just saying that it may happen. You need a lawyer. There is information here that could justify a suppression motion. Don't post additional details online. The police can see what is said here, and it isn't difficult to figure out who you are. Good luck.
The response I have provided is general in nature, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. My practice is based in Rhode Island, and the law and practice in other states or jurisdictions may be different.
You didn't get arrested for DUI, just cited and released, car not impounded? The expired plates was reason enough to impound your car, but it was not impounded, so looking at his agency's protocol is also important in your case. The automobile exception may not apply because there was no probable cause to believe you had drugs. My guess is the cop will lie and claim you gave permission to search, and if he had no body or dash camera to record the audio, you lose on that one. Over all, you have a complex series of facts that give rise to a suppression motion. You clearly need a competent criminal defense attorney. I know of one in Nephi, so you could contact me for that referral.
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