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Just say no to traffic stop searches

With the Memorial Day weekend approaching, drivers in the Elizabethtown area may see additional police patrols. The Memorial Day weekend is often called the unofficial start of summer, and the long, three-day weekends frequently are targets of law enforcement, as traffic violations and crashes frequently increase. More Kentucky State Police, Hardin County Sheriff's Office vehicles and local police departments are likely to be on the roads looking for minor violations and for potential DUIs.

With law enforcement being ever more vigilant, it is likely that there will also be more arrests. Police often view "traffic stops" as an opportunity for more than merely stopping an individual for the violations of one of Kentucky's many traffic ordinances. An officer may view a car or driver as "suspicious," but lack the requisite "reasonable suspicion" that provides legal grounds for a traffic stop.

So they may follow and observe the vehicle until the driver commits a minor traffic infraction that gives them the authority to stop the driver. A traffic stop like this offers more than simply a chance for an officer to write a traffic violation ticket.

It gives them the opportunity to examine a driver, their vehicle and the contents of the passenger compartment. If an officer wants a closer look, he or she may claim they smell marijuana or alcohol and ask the driver to get out of the vehicle. They also may ask if they can search the vehicle. Many people consent. Keep in mind, if they had seen evidence of a crime, the officer wouldn't have to ask.

During this type of search, the officer may find drugs, drug paraphernalia or other contraband that provides the probable cause they need to arrest the driver or passengers. There is no reason to ever consent to a search of your vehicle and if you do, you complicate any defense in court, because even if an officer makes a Constitutional error during the search, it cannot be challenged, because you consented.

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