You may be able to successfully suppress evidence recovered during a car search in Philadelphia, PA. Significant changes to Pennsylvania law raise law enforcement officers’ standard of probable cause for searching a vehicle—this legal change could benefit you.
A Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer from our team can speak with you about appealing a criminal charge. We will review the details of your traffic stop, arrest, and conviction and determine if you have grounds for a criminal appeal.
Historically, Probable Cause Was Enough to Search Your Vehicle in Philadelphia
A police officer needs probable cause to conduct a traffic stop and search a vehicle. While a motorist has a right to refuse a car search, an officer could get a warrant to search if they had probable cause to do so, per 234 Pa. Code Rule 205.
Probable cause to conduct a traffic stop may include:
- Non-operational taillight(s)
- Non-operational headlight(s)
- Failure to heed a stop sign, red light, or yield sign
- Lack of essential safety features (like side mirrors)
- Expired or absent plates or tags
Probable cause for a police officer to search a vehicle may include:
- Signs of impairment in the motorist
- Visible illegal items
- The driver’s words may suggest a reason to search the vehicle
- The driver’s consent, which the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) explains may be grounds to search a vehicle (even without probable cause)
We may challenge the assertion that an officer had probable cause to pull you over or search your vehicle. However, having probable cause is no longer sufficient to search a car in Philadelphia or elsewhere in Pennsylvania.
For a free legal consultation, call 215.515.3360
Pennsylvania Added Measures to Protect Pennsylvania Motorists From Unjust Searches
A 2020 decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court established that law enforcement officers need more than probable cause alone to search cars and other vehicles without a warrant in Pennsylvania.
The decision results from the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 1 § 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which grants protection from search and seizure beyond even what the United States Constitution affords. This section states that “The people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and possessions from unreasonable searches and seizures…”
The Supreme Court ruled that, in addition to probable cause, a law enforcement officer could only search a motor vehicle if:
- They have a warrant to do so
- There are “exigent circumstances” requiring a search, which could include immediate danger to someone’s life or the potential that evidence will become unavailable without a search
This decision t forces law enforcement officers to have proper justification to search a vehicle. The decision places a higher burden of proof on law enforcement for anyone intending to conduct a warrantless search, and it increases privacy protections for motorists in Philadelphia.
You May Suppress Evidence Resulting From an Illegal Car Search
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2020, Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers have new arguments for suppressing items recovered in car searches.
Where once we might have to prove that a law enforcement officer did not have probable cause to conduct a traffic stop or search, we can now argue that even if there was probable cause, there were no “exigent circumstances” for a warrantless search. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s important ruling provides many more opportunities to suppress evidence recovered from vehicle searches.
Arguments Our Attorneys May Make During a Case Based on a Vehicle Search
There will be a central argument in your case, which may include:
- The traffic stop was illegal: Lack of probable cause for a traffic stop has long been grounds for appeal in criminal cases—specifically those in which a car search turned up evidence. We may argue that the law enforcement officer pulled you over illegally or engaged in misconduct during the traffic stop.
- The search was illegal: Based on the Supreme Court ruling, we may argue that the law enforcement officer needed a warrant to search legally. If they did not have a signed warrant at the time of search, we may have grounds for a successful appeal.
- You are not responsible for any illegal contents found in the vehicle: Even if law enforcement officials had grounds to stop and search your vehicle, you may not be responsible for items found during the search.
- There were procedural errors during your trial: Many appeals stem from errors or misconduct made by a prosecutor.
We build defenses on a case-by-case basis. Our Philadelphia criminal defense team will review the details of your car search and identify reasons to pursue a motion to suppress
The Supreme Court’s ruling has presented an entirely new reason for suppressing car stops and searches in Philadelphia. You can take full advantage of this landmark ruling by considering filing an appeal with a criminal defense lawyer from our legal team.
Call the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC for a Free Consultation—Let’s Appeal Your Car Search
We must generally file appeals within a strict deadline, so don’t wait to contact our firm. Gun charges, drug charges, and other offenses can result from car searches in Philadelphia, but even a conviction is not the end of your legal fight.
Call the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC today for your free consultation.