• North Carolina Traffic Stops | What You Should Know
  • October 2, 2012
  • Law Firm: Matheson Law Office PLLC - Raleigh Office
  • Most everyone who lives in North Carolina will, at some point in their life, be pulled over for violating a North Carolina Traffic Law. It's a very uncomfortable experience. Chances are, you had somewhere to be that you will be late, in addition to the added cost and expenses associated with a North Carolina Traffic Ticket you may receive. As a Raleigh Traffic Lawyer and Raleigh Criminal Attorney, many of my clients come to be as a result of a traffic stop. While most people involved in these types of traffic stops are cited for a traffic violation and sent on their way, many of my clients were caught violating some other North Carolina law. In these circumstances, the Police Officers have found some type of contraband in their vehicle. Whether the discovery of these items was the result of a lawful search or not can depend on many factors. One of the big issues that comes up is whether the Defendant gave the Police Officer consent to search the vehicle. This article will talk a little bit about the rights of the Driver in these situations and some things to consider on whether consenting to the search of the vehicle.

    First, let's be clear, a Driver is NEVER REQUIRED TO CONSENT to a search! Now, that is different then a Police Officer being able to search your vehicle. There are many instances where a Police Officer does NOT need the Driver's consent to search a vehicle. In those instances, the Driver can only sit back and watch as their privacy is violated as the Police Officer goes through the vehicle. The best thing to do when this is happening is NOT SAY ANYTHING, but to comply with the requests of the Police Officer as it pertains to exiting the vehicle and staying out of the way.

    However, when the Police Officer does not have probable cause to search the vehicle, and no other exception that would permit them to search the vehicle, then they can ask the Driver to give consent. Many times, the Police Officer does not simply ask, "Do I have your consent to search your vehicle?" More often then not, they use persuasive statements like "So you have no problem if I search your vehicle?" In these circumstances, it is important to know your rights. You DO NOT have to consent to a search. Many times the Police Officer will tell you that if you do not consent then they will search it anyways. Ask yourself, if that was the case, then why don't they just do it? The reason is they do not have grounds to search without your consent. The case law requires that, upon completion of a traffic stop for the original offense, the Police Officer must release the Driver unless they become aware of other evidence which would give reasonable suspicion of another crime being committed OR if the Driver consents to the search. If there is no reasonable suspicion, and the Driver doesn't consent, then any further delay of the Driver is UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

    Lastly, while many will say they have nothing to hide, so no reason not to consent, do you really want to risk criminal charges on that assumption? The reality is, we all are away from our vehicles at some point or another where, unbeknownst to the Driver, contraband may have been introduced. Ever loan your vehicle to someone? How about a valet? Dealership or repair shop? It will be very hard to argue the contraband is not yours if it is in your possession (i.e. in the vehicle you are driving).

    So, if you find yourself in a traffic stop, consider these ideas before you consent to a search. If you are cited with a North Carolina Criminal Charge or arrest, contact a local attorney to best represent your interest. If this occurs in Wake County, contact Raleigh Criminal Lawyer M. Moseley Matheson for your free consultation.

    Disclaimer - Information and advice offered in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is specific to North Carolina law. The viewing, receipt and/or exchange of information from this article does not constitute an Attorney-Client Relationship. For assistance regarding your particular legal question speak with an Attorney practicing in the field from which your questions derives.