Can the Police Legally Search Your Butt After a Routine Stop for a Traffic Ticket?

Can the Police Legally Search Your Butt After a Routine Stop for a Traffic Ticket?

2011 04 11 - 7662 - Washington DC - DC Rights Protest
thisisbossi / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

On August 5, 2013, a Syracuse police officer stopped a man for a traffic violation when he allegedly failed to use a turn signal.  After noticing him wiggling around in his seat, the police allegedly saw crack cocaine on the man’s seat.  When the man was brought to the Justice Center and a body search was conducted, the police allegedly found crack cocaine hidden in his buttocks.  The man was charged with drug possession third and fourth degree felonies and a drug possession in the seventh degree misdemeanor.

Did the police have the right to search the man’s butt when he was only stopped for a traffic ticket?  As with every drug case, the key issue is whether the police seizure was lawful or did the police violate the man’s search and seizure rights.  The answer requires a lawyer to analyze the legality of the search and seizure had under the federal (Fourth Amendment) and New York constitutions.  As a general rule, when a car is stopped for a traffic infraction, the police may not search absent additional grounds to believe that a crime has been committed.  The police can order the driver or passenger out of the car during a traffic stop and, if the police observe contraband in plain view, they can search the entire car, along with its occupants.  Another permissible reason for the police to search a car is when the police smell marijuana in the vehicle.

Although there are many valid reasons for the police to search a car and its occupants, the police often conduct car searches based on illegal reasons.  Just some examples are:  (1) the car is in a “high crime area;” (2) furtive movements of the car’s occupants, like “wiggling” or moving your hands; (3) the occupants giving different stories as to their travels; and (4) asking the occupants if the car contains “anything illegal they should know about” without observing any facts of a crime.

If the police conduct an illegal search, and the proper suppression motions are brought by your attorney, all property illegally seized will be suppressed and may not be used as evidence against you at trial.  In certain instances, suppression from an illegal search may extend to your statements or confession, which may be suppressed as the “fruit” of the illegal search or “poisonous tree.”

Can the police search your butt after a traffic stop?  The legal answer often depends on the skill and ability of your attorney to conduct a proper and detailed analysis of your case under the applicable search and seizure law.  The attorneys at Weisberg & Zukher, PLLC. have more than a decade of trial and motion experience with search and seizure issues.  If you are charged with a drug crime, our knowledge of search and seizure law will make all the difference in your case, to obtain the best result possible for you.

Call Weisberg & Zukher, PLLC. at 315-701-2939 for a free consultation or send us an e-mail to tell us about your case at  O

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