When Police Can Search a Person in a Maryland Gun Investigation

The collection of evidence can be crucial for law enforcement to build a case against someone. Since conducting an investigation is necessary to collect evidence, it may be important for a person to learn when police can search a person in a Maryland gun investigation. A Maryland gun lawyer could examine how the police gathered evidence against you and may be able to question the validity of anything they gathered. Speak to a knowledgeable attorney to learn your legal rights.

How the Police Could Investigate a Person’s Car for Guns

Warrant

Law enforcement is typically not allowed to search a vehicle without some legal basis. In a Maryland gun investigation, one of the most direct ways for the police to search a person is by getting a warrant. Officers could present evidence to a judge that there is probable cause to believe that a gun will be found or evidence of a crime related to a gun may be found in the vehicle. A sworn statement from the detective or law enforcement summarizing the evidence that will support probable cause is usually enough to obtain a warrant.

If a judge approves the warrant, the law enforcement officer has the legal authority to search the vehicle. While a person may be able to challenge the warrant, judges could be very careful with their standing for issuing one.

Arrests

The second main basis an officer may have for a search incident could be an arrest. After the initial arrest, if the officer has reason to believe that there is evidence of a crime in the vehicle, they could conduct a search of the vehicle then and there. If there is some connection between the arrest and the potential for evidence inside the vehicle, officers may have a legal basis to search the vehicle.

Inventory Search

An inventory search could occur if a vehicle will be impounded into police custody. When someone is pulled over on the side of the road while driving their vehicle and gets arrested, law enforcement may have the option of leaving the car at the location if it is in a safe or a legally-parked location so that a family member or a friend of the individual could arrive at the scene and drive the vehicle away. The officer may also have an option to impound the vehicle.

By using this option, they are authorized and required to conduct an inventory of all the items in the vehicle. This might be done both to protect the vehicle owner’s property rights as to their possessions inside of a vehicle and to ensure that police are accountable if any of those possessions go missing. To conduct the inventory, they have to search the vehicle. Any illegal guns, weapons, or other contraband that was found during the search could subject the person to additional charges which an attorney could help dispute.

Probable Cause

If officers believe there is probable cause that a weapon or other evidence of a crime is inside a vehicle, they may be allowed to conduct a warrantless search. The evidence supporting the probable cause might be based on observations or on a tip from an informant if there was an indication of liability or other circumstances. Probable cause searches involving officers on the scene with the vehicle are typically the most common types of vehicle searches.

When Could Officers Inspect a Person for Firearm Possession?

Since it is a presumption that the Fourth Amendment protects an individual from unreasonable searches and seizures, law enforcement would typically need a legal basis to search someone. If someone was arrested for a legal and legitimate reason and probable cause was found, officers may have a right to search them. This could be done for two different reasons:

Officer Safety

While searching a person, safety is one of the driving factors for the police during a Maryland gun investigation.

The search could be conducted for the officer’s safety. Because the person is being taken into custody, police need to know what, if anything, is in the person’s possession and consider the need to safeguard the person’s personal property that was taken from them. Any gun, illegal drug, or other contraband that is found on the person could subject them to further criminal charges.

Stop-and-Frisk

Law enforcement typically has a right to conduct what is generally known as a stop-and-frisk or what lawyers call a Terry Stop, which was named after the criminal case U.S. v. Terry. An officer must have what they call reasonable articulable suspicion to conduct the search.

Officers could conduct a pat-down search for officer safety in which they run their hands over the exterior of a person’s clothing. If the officers feel anything that could be a weapon, or the criminality of the object is inherent, they are typically allowed to conduct a further invasive search going through the person’s pockets or clothes. If they feel that there could be a barrel of a gun, they may conduct a further search to prove what they are doing. If they feel a small container or a small vial that may contain illegal drugs, they are not authorized to go into the pockets to retrieve that. The criminality of the object must be inherent, so a small container which may contain drugs but could also contain any number of things or could be empty might not inherently be criminal. The law typically does not justify a further invasive search the way it does if an officer feels what could be a gun barrel.

Discuss Police Searches with a Maryland Gun Attorney

An experienced gun attorney could help you understand when police can search a person in a Maryland gun investigation and how to defend against any allegations thrown your way. If you face firearm violation charges, contact an attorney as soon as possible. With the help of a veteran attorney, you could fight for a positive resolution.

Maryland Gun Investigations