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Old January 19, 2013, 11:19 AM   #25
Aguila Blanca
Senior Member
Join Date: September 25, 2008
Location: CONUS
Posts: 8,515
Originally Posted by 5whiskey
Unfortunately again, everyone needs to brush up on the law. A cop would actually be justified in frisking the entire vehicle if a weapon is found in one location. After all, case law has upheld that if there is one weapon in the vehicle then it would be reasonable to argue that there could be another. It's no different than if I happen to find the stash of weed next to the gun when I pull it out. I not only get to seize that weed, but I have probable cause for a warrantless search (carrol doctrine) of the entire vehicle. So yes, way more than the right front pouch would be in play.
I get the sense that you are a police officer. If so, you are a police officer who is going to get your department sued. That, or you're going to blow a case some day by having evidence thrown out under the fruit of a poisoned tree theory.

Your legal latitude for "frisking" a vehicle for weapons in a traffic stop is officer safety, which is what allows you to check ONLY the area within the immediate reach of the driver. You are not searching for contraband. If the driver has already told you that he has a weapon, where that weapon is, and that he has a carry permit, he could have an arsenal in the trunk and you would have no reason to see it, or to look for it.

Now ... if (IF) the reason you pulled him over isn't a traffic stop but because both the vehicle and the driver potentially match the description of the guy who just held up the Stop-N-Rob 3 miles down the road, THEN you would be acting within Terry in a reasonable suspicion of (possible) criminal activity. But even then you don't get carte blanche to toss the whole car. Unless you make an arrest, all you have is an investigatory detention, and all you are allowed at that point is to search for weapons in the immediate vicinity that could be a threat to officer safety.

You need to have your supervisor bring the prosecuting attorney for your jurisdiction in for some departmental refresher training.

Originally Posted by 5whiskey
And yes, EVERY traffic stop is indeed a criminal investigation. It may be for the simple crime of a burned out tail light, but that is indeed a crime in most states.
Which states? Not in mine, and I doubt in yours. A burned out taillight is a motor vehicle infraction, not a criminal offense. Same for speeding or running a stop sign.
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