Cars have been part of people’s daily lives for decades now. People use their cars to travel from place to place, obviously. Because they are so important, people haul around a lot of their stuff in their vehicles, and police in Appleton and the surrounding area know this. For this reason, police often conduct traffic stops with the hope of finding evidence that could lead to drug charges or other criminal offenses.
Generally speaking, police do not need a warrant to search a Wisconsin resident’s vehicle. However, they are required to have what is called probable cause before doing so. In other words, they have to have some objective reason to believe that they will find evidence of criminal activity by searching the vehicle. Otherwise, they must either obtain a search warrant, get consent to search the vehicle or rely on some other special legal rule that gives them the authority to conduct a search.
Even a well-trained and well-meaning police officer can make mistakes in this respect and wind up searching a vehicle without lawful authority. Unfortunately, there are also a handful of bad apple cops out there who are willing to bend the rules for any number of reasons.
The point is that someone who is facing drug charges based on what police claim to have found in their vehicle may have legal options. For instance, they may be able to contest the search of their vehicle and, thus, get an order from the judge saying that prosecutors cannot use the evidence police found. Such orders often induce the state to drop charges.