Illegal Drug Searches in Columbia

You’re driving down the highway when you see the red and blue lights of the Missouri State Highway Patrol in your rearview mirror. You may wonder what you could have done to get pulled over. The reality is out-of-state license plates are a common reason for MO State Highway Patrol to stop vehicles. The driver may be asked questions about their destination and where they’re coming from. The conversation may also turn to whether the vehicle can be searched. Illegal drug searches in Columbia are serious matters. Fortunately, a skilled drug attorney could help.

What Steps to Take After Being Pulled Over?

What you may not be aware of is the practice of state troopers in Missouri targeting out-of-state license plates on Interstate 70 for drug searches. This is not an uncommon practice and happens in other states such as Kansas and Utah as well. The thinking behind this is that those with out-of-state plates may be carrying drugs.

If you’re pulled over, your priority should be to remain calm and respectful. After all, you’ve done nothing wrong. If the officer asks you to step out of the car or present your registration, you should comply with their requests. However, if you are asked to consent to an illegal drug search, always politely but firmly decline, and contact a lawyer in Columbia to protect your rights.

Do the Police Have a Right to Search Your Car?

It is a common misconception that the police have the right to search any car with no questions asked. In fact, there are only three scenarios where the police are legally allowed to carry out a drug search.

  1. The police have a search warrant
  2. There is some articulable suspicion that contraband will be found in the vehicle
  3. When the driver has given verbal consent

When there is strong physical evidence indicating illegal drugs are inside your car, this is called probable cause. The smell of marijuana permeating from the vehicle, drug paraphernalia in plain view, or a drug-sniffing dog alerting the police can be considered probable cause. In these cases, consent is not required for a drug search in Columbia.

How to React if the Police Ask to Search Your Car

If the police are without a warrant or probable cause to search your vehicle, the next option is to attempt to get consent from the driver. It is in your best interest to never give the police consent to search your car.

Do Not Consent to a Drug Search

If a state patrol officer in Columbia pulls you over and asks to search your car, you are within your rights to politely decline. Do not pay attention to threats or coercion as officers are strictly prohibited from extending the length of a routine traffic stop to retrieve a warrant or drug-sniffer dog.

Remain Silent

What you say can and will be held against you in a court of law. It is always best to remain silent when dealing with law enforcement. Avoid discussing your day or making statements that may hurt you in a future court case. In fact, it’s always best to simply refrain from discussing anything with law enforcement except to ask why they pulled you over. Beyond that, staying silent is your best option when facing an illegal search.

Drug Possession Charges in Columbia

If you’re charged with state or federal offense crimes in Missouri due to an Interstate 70 drug search, a criminal defense lawyer can protect your rights and help you navigate the criminal justice system. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will know how to challenge the evidence against you, help you build a strong defense, and work to get the charges reduced or dismissed entirely. Though police have strict procedures, unfortunately, they do not always follow them. Drug searches that are carried out illegally by police cannot be admitted as evidence in a court of law in Missouri. To determine guilt in a drug possession case, prosecutors must prove that you:

  • Knew the drug was present in the area it was recovered
  • Exercised dominion/control over the controlled substance
  • Knew the illicit nature of the controlled substance

If stopped by the Missouri Highway Patrol on Interstate 70, never admit to any substances that may be found in your vehicle. Instead, exercise your right to silence and contact a local defense attorney as soon as possible.

Contact a Columbia Attorney Today Regarding Illegal Drug Searches

Anyone who faces illegal drug searches in Columbia should contact the Law Offices of Chris Miller. Our experienced Columbia criminal defense lawyers have successfully fought against these charges for many clients. We understand the seriousness of these charges and will work tirelessly to get you the best possible outcome. Schedule a free consultation with us today to get started on your case.

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