Vehicle Searches: Know Your Rights

The Constitution protects Americans against illegal search and seizure.  Most people own automobiles but are not aware of the legalities behind police vehicle searches.

In many cases, police officers have no right to search a vehicle during a routine traffic stop; however, unwarranted searches can and do occur.  Police officers are not responsible for informing vehicles occupants of their rights to refuse an illegal search, nor are they required to explain if and when they can make a permissible search.  These searches include both the vehicle’s interior as well as the trunk.

In order for the police to search your home, property, or vehicle, they must obtain a warrant.  This means that they must prove probable cause to a higher authority.  There are, however, certain circumstances where searches without a warrant are permissible by law:

  • Consent searches – if citizens voluntarily agrees to a search, they waive their Fourth Amendment rights (the right to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure).  Anything found in the vehicle from this search can be used as evidence against a defendant.
  • Plain view rule – if there is something illegal or contraband in plain view from the outside of the vehicle, the police officer is entitled to conduct a search.
  • Incident to arrest – if a driver is arrested for driving under the influence, authorities are permitted to perform a vehicle search.
  • Exigent circumstances – if the police officer feels that he/she or bystanders are at risk, or evidence is in danger of being destroyed, it is lawful to conduct a search.
  • Probable cause – if the police officer has reason to believe that a crime has been or is about to be committed, a warrant-less search is permissible.

Each citizen of the United States is assured a reasonable expectation to privacy.  Illegal search and seizure is a direct violation of your fundamental constitutional rights.  Please make sure that you are aware of what is and what is not permissible by law, and exercise your rights appropriately.

Interesting Factoid – 1.3 million out of 19.3 drivers had their vehicles searched, but 90% of those searches presented no incriminating evidence.
– Criminal Bureau of Justice

Do You Have to Perform DWI Field Sobriety Tests in Minnesota?

If you are pulled over because a police officer believes that you are in violation of DWI law, you may be asked to perform a series of simple physical or cognitive tests to determine sobriety. Field Sobriety Test

Field sobriety tests provide officers probable cuase to arrest drivers on the suspicion of driving under the influence.  The standard field sobriety tests include the following:

  • One-legged stand
  • Walk and turn
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (eye test)
  • Preliminary breath test (PBT)

In addition to the standard tests, officers may also administer other tests to gauge a driver’s sobriety:

  • Stand with feet together while tipping the head backward
  • Touch nose with index finger
  • Count the number of fingers raised by the officer
  • Recite the alphabet (or a portion of it)
  • Count backwards

Most drivers try to be cooperative and simply perform the tests requested by law enforcement; however, you are NOT legally required to take a field sobriety test.  Be aware though, failure to perform the field sobriety tests may be considered cause for the officer to arrest you.

Although it is not a crime to decline the field sobriety test, you are required to consent to a chemical test if arrested.   If an officer asks you to take a chemical test, it will be an analysis of your breath, blood, or urine.  Refusing to take the chemical test IS a crime in Minnesota.  You may be charged with a refusal if you do not submit to a breath test (different from a PBT) or if you refuse to take a blood AND urine test.  It is not a crime to refuse a blood or urine test–it is only illegal to refuse both.

Bikini Baristas Charged With Prostitution

Bikini BaristaOver the last year in Washington State, there have been a large number of complaints regarding what are known as “bikini baristas.”  Locally known for their sex appeal, these baristas are hired to prepare coffee and other café items while dressed in, yes, you guessed it, bikinis.

Due to the coffee shacks being placed prominently on the side of the road, unassuming motorists drive by all day long, and may get a look at something they were not expecting, hence the grievances.  Recently, some of the baristas have been showing up to work in even less than bikinis.  Some have also been receiving as much as $80, because patrons may touch or grope their bodies.  Police officials are currently looking into these allegations and have officially charged some bikini baristas with prostitution.  These charges stem from alleged conduct, not from the baristas’ attire.

Many believe that this is a waste of resources on the part of the police department.  Under Washington State Law, this is clearly NOT prostitution.  Prostitution is defined as “engaging or agreeing to offer to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee.”  The baristas are not approaching customers and soliciting themselves–they are scantily clad, and patrons enjoy the view.

It is also important to note that baristas, by job title, are tipped employees.  The amount of money they are given by customers is dependent on the customer, not the barista.  The barista would need to explicitly request a fee in order for this to fall under the bylaws of prostitution.  To say that these women have been charging customers $80, there needs to be receipts and proof of an agreed amount, as opposed to the customer volunteering that money as a tip.

Also, who is to say that this conduct is welcomed?  While these women are in swimsuits, they are not requesting that customers touch them inappropriately.  It is suggested that perhaps patrons even take it upon themselves to lewdly touch the baristas.  It’s been reported that some of the shop owners clearly state in employee guidelines that illegal behavior (prostitution) is forbidden, and if discovered, will elicit serious action and immediate termination.

For more information regarding prostitution laws in Minnesota, visit our website.

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