Many Maryland drivers are stopped for a routine traffic violation and end up arrested on drug charges after the arresting officer finds illegal substances or drug paraphernalia in the driver’s vehicle. However, the Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures in areas where you have a legitimate expectation of privacy, such as your home or vehicle. If an officer performs an unlawful search or seizure, any evidence obtained during that search will likely be thrown out of the criminal case stemming from the drug charges brought against you.

Under the Fourth Amendment, officers may only perform a search or seizure of your vehicle if they have a valid search or arrest warrant, your consent to perform the search, or probable cause to reasonably believe that you or your vehicle were involved in a crime. If an officer stops your vehicle for a minor traffic violation, such as speeding or running a stop sign, they are generally not permitted to conduct a search of your vehicle unless they believe the search is necessary to protect themselves (e.g. if they suspect you are armed).

However, officers are permitted to seize any evidence of drug use that is in plain view during the stop. For example, if an officer stops you for speeding and sees a marijuana pipe through the window, he or she is permitted to seize it. The pipe also provides the probable cause the officer needs to continue searching the vehicle for other evidence relating to drug crimes.

Many drug arrests stem from unlawful searches and seizures during routine traffic stops. If you feel you are a victim of an unlawful arrest, you may contact a criminal defense attorney to help with your case.