In the United States, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects you from unlawful searches and seizures. In other words, law enforcement is generally required to have a valid search warrant to search you or your property. However, there are exceptions to this rule.
Under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement, Oregon law enforcement officials can search your vehicle without a warrant under certain circumstances. This exception was created in part because there is a lower expectation of privacy in a vehicle than there is in a person’s home.
Additionally, the vehicles’ inherent mobility creates an exigency. In other words, the exception accounts for the fact that it would be impractical to go through the process of getting a warrant to search a vehicle, as the potential evidence could be removed or destroyed in the meantime.
Therefore, law enforcement may search a vehicle without a warrant if:
- The vehicle is readily mobile (though, not necessarily in motion at the time); and
- The officer has probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains evidence of crime.
However, it is important to note that the scope of the search will be limited to locations where the officer has probable cause to believe evidence would exist. For example, if the officer is searching for evidence of a drug crime and has probable cause to believe the vehicle contains this evidence, he or she will be allowed to search the entire vehicle, including containers inside the vehicle and the trunk. However, searching for
If an officer conducts an unlawful search of your vehicle, any evidence obtained during the search may be excluded from your case entirely. Many defendants have had their charges dropped or their sentences reduced due to their criminal defense strategy of establishing a violation of their Constitutional rights.