Our criminal defense law firm represents individuals charged with a variety of crimes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including the illegal possession of drugs, narcotics, firearms, handguns, as well as drunk driving (DUI/DWI). As a criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia who has represented clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, I have written on previous occasions, most of these arrests occur following a vehicle stop and the recovery of contraband from the vehicle itself.
Warrantless Searches Are Constitutional in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, warrantless searches of vehicles are permissible if police have probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains contraband (narcotics, drugs, handguns, illegal firearms).
If you’re stopped in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, you should never give consent to search your vehicle. If consent is given all of a person’s Constitutional Rights, under the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution are negated. Consent, however, is not always as simple as the officer testifying that the driver permitted the search. In Pennsylvania, the burden to prove that consent is voluntary is always on the prosecution. Courts will determine the voluntariness of consent based on the totality of the circumstances. Courts will determine if a driver or motorist affirmatively acquiesced to a search.
It’s important to keep in mind that even if the allegation is that you consented to the search, you should not give up hope on your case! Your criminal defense lawyer should review all of the circumstances surrounding your arrest and the search of your vehicle to determine if there is a viable argument for a lack of voluntary consent
Motion to Suppress Evidence
A motion to suppress evidence is often the strongest tool in a case involving illegal narcotic, drugs or firearms. In many of these cases, if the evidence is admissible, there are much weaker arguments with regards to actual or constructive possession at trial.
Also keep in mind that prior to establishing probable cause to search, police must have probable cause to stop a vehicle and if the initial interaction does not provide probable cause they need at least reasonable suspicion to continue an investigation in an attempt to establish probable cause. All of these topics are discussed in my free books which are available in our download section and many of my videos.
Mandatory Minimum Sentences—Pennsylvania and New Jersey
New Jersey, unlike Pennsylvania, has a number of mandatory minimum sentences for the illegal possession of firearms and handguns. I have written a number of articles on New Jersey’s Graves Act and Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act.
Statement to Police – Don’t Make Them But Respect Police Officers
Finally, if you’re stopped by police you should never make a statement other than simply providing the officer with your driving information. Do not tell the officer where you came from or where you are going as you are under no obligation to do so. Do not refuse a chemical breath or blood test as this will never help your criminal case. A refusal will result in an automatic license suspension even if your case is dismissed or acquitted at trial. A refusal is a civil sanction imposed under the Department of Transportation for each state. Respect police officers and remain calm that should be the extent of your cooperation