cedar rapids / iowa city criminal defense

Can the police 'look' in my car during a traffic stop?

by David Cmelik


​​Law enforcement officers sometimes use a traffic stop to make contact with the driver to detect impairment but he or she is also looking very carefully at whatever may appear “in plain view” as they interact with the driver. Officers use this “plain view” language in their police reports but ultimately whether the seizure of evidence without a warrant satisfies the “plain view” exception to the warrant requirement is not for them to say—it’s for the judge should a criminal defense attorney file a motion to suppress evidence after initiation of the prosecution against the defendant. 


In any case, officers are especially observant of what might appear on the dash board and in the cup holders between the front driver and passenger seats, sometimes called the “center console.” If officers report that they see drug paraphernalia or an open container they will, of course, assert that they have “reasonable grounds” to believe that a motorist is impaired and request additional testing.


Drug paraphernalia, like a pipes, grinders, and rolling papers, in the center console might also be used to bolster the argument that a motorist is impaired. But it is also a simple misdemeanor in violation of Iowa Code § 124.414 punishable by at most 30 days in jail and a $650 fine. Arrest for drug paraphernalia might lead to towing, since an arrested driver cannot go home with his or her car. Once a motorist is arrested, the car and every container inside of it may be inventoried without a warrant and, if contraband, may be used as evidence against the motorist.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for OWI, open container, drug possession, drug paraphernalia, or other offense in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC at 319-389-1889, or https://www.daclawfirm.com for a free initial consultation today. 

1450 Boyson Road Suite C-2A Hiawatha, Iowa 52233     319-389-1889



Moreover, the officer might argue they have probable cause to cite for open container in a vehicle in violation of Iowa Code § 321.284A states that “A passenger in a motor vehicle upon a public street or highway shall not possess in the passenger area of the motor vehicle an open or unsealed bottle, can, jar, or other receptacle containing an alcoholic beverage.” The passenger area of a vehicle is defined as “the area of a motor vehicle designed to seat the driver and passengers while the motor vehicle is in operation and any area that is readily accessible to the driver or a passenger while in their seating positions, including the glove compartment.” Id.


An open container violation is a scheduled violation subject only to a fine and no jail time. However, law enforcement will invariably assert that an open container violation justifies further investigation of impairment and will undoubtedly argue that it contributes to reasonable grounds to believe a test subject is intoxicated. 



 

Getting a good look-see  Officers are especially observant of what appears on the dash board and the cup holders during a traffic stop, including what might be in between the front driver and passenger seats, sometimes called the "center console." If officers report that they see an open container or drug paraphernlia, they will undoubtedly assert that they have not only probable cause to cite or arrest for those offenses, respectively, but they will also argue that these observations contributed to reasonable grounds to believe the driver is impaired. Become an informed legal consumer. Contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC today for an initial consultation if you or a loved one has been arrested for a criminal offense in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, Vinton, Anamosa, Linn, Johnson, Black Hawk, Benton, or Jones counties.