In some cases, the driver of the vehicle or the possessor of marijuana readily gives it over to the officer. Officers are very skilled about getting people to hand over contraband. However, in some cases they do have to perform a search in order to find a substance.
The law of search and seizure in Virginia is quite complicated, and it’s impossible to go over everything in one little article. But the most important thing to realize right off hand is that the officer normally needs probable cause in order to search your vehicle. However, if you allow them to search, they don’t need probable cause. Consent trumps everything. If you say, “yes officer; feel free to search,” then it doesn’t matter if they have probable cause or not. They can search all they want.
That’s why it’s critical to refuse any searches. You always want to say politely, “no officer; you may not search,” and if they have probable cause they would still search. But if you refuse to consent then they have to have probable cause to search your vehicle.
The cool thing about the law is that if they perform an illegal search, the remedy for that is that they cannot use anything that they find against you in court. If you refuse to consent to search and if they don’t actually have probable cause for any type of contraband in the vehicle, then we have a strong argument that the search was illegal. That could keep the marijuana out of evidence and help us secure a win!
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