Although law enforcement investigations can focus on certain drug charges like possession and distribution, many alleged drug charges are actually the product of secondary investigations. For example, a Tennessee police officer may pull a driver over for speeding only to allege that they saw drugs or drug paraphernalia in the cab of the driver's vehicle. Depending on the reason for the stop, a law enforcement officer may engage in a much more invasive search.
The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. That means that there must be a justifiable reason for a law enforcement official to have the right to search one's car. A search may be justified if a person allows the officer to engage in the search, if the officer believes that their safety may be in jeopardy, if they have probable cause to believe there is contraband in the car or if they have placed the individual under arrest.
During a traffic stop a driver does not have to consent to a search of their vehicle. If drugs are in plain view during an interrogation between a police officer and a driver then that police officer may have probable cause to arrest and search the rest of the vehicle. However, from time to time overzealous law enforcement officials make illegal vehicle searches and find alleged illegal substances on which erroneous arrests are based.
A traffic stop-based drug arrest should be examined to determine if the stop and arrest were lawful. Individuals have constitutional rights that must be protected and upheld in order to preserve the proper application of the law. Therefore, it can help anyone to a better understanding of their legal rights.