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Probable Cause in DWI
in North Carolina
What Is Probable Cause?
In simple terms, probable cause is the reasonable grounds an officer has to believe criminal activity is occurring or has recently occurred. If you have been pulled over for a minor traffic violation, this does not automatically grant the officer the right to search your car.
However, if while approaching your window, he or she smells alcohol or marijuana, the officer now has reasonable grounds to believe you may be driving while impaired. If he or she shines a flashlight inside your vehicle and finds any contraband in plain sight, there is even more reason to believe you have been participating in criminal activity, and they now have the necessary probable cause to search your car.
What to Do When Pulled Over
There are a few things to keep in mind if you are pulled over by the police:
- The first thing you should do when pulled over is to turn off your car and place your hands on your steering wheel so the officer knows you are nor armed or hiding anything.
- While it is important to be polite and compliant with members of law enforcement, you do not have to verbally consent to a search.
- Most importantly: Do not physically resist; just verbally refuse.
Always keep in mind that refusing a search request does not mean you are guilty. If a policeman searches your car despite your refusal, you may be able to file a suppression motion in court. If the evidence found during a search was done so without probable cause, then there is also a chance that your case may be dismissed altogether.
After the Fact
After the search, if the police let you go, then you should leave immediately. If you are not free to go, then it is key for you to remain quiet and ask for a lawyer. You are not legally required to answer any questions.
If you believe the police have violated your rights during a car search, or are just looking for more information on car searches, the team at The Floyd Law Offices is here to help.
- Dismissed State of North Carolina v. C.R.
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