Join Club

NOVA Legal Beat: Consent to a Search?

NOVA Legal Beat logo

Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Mathew B. Tully of Tully Rinckey PLLC.

Q. Is a police officer allowed to search my car if he pulls me over for running a red light? Can I oppose any such search?

A. One of the most confusing aspects of the law for ordinary citizens regards what is and what is not permissible during a traffic stop. In fact, it sometimes confuses attorneys! Under ordinary circumstances, an officer is not permitted to search your vehicle just because you ran a red light. There has to be probable cause that a crime is being committed before searching your vehicle. A commonly used basis for probable cause is an “odor” of marijuana. Absent such an odor or other similar probable cause, there would be no basis for a search.

However, the officer is allowed to ask you to leave the car, which can allow them to frisk you for weapons and other dangerous items. This frisk can of course lead to the discovery of non-dangerous, but otherwise illegal items. Additionally, you can be arrested and a search can be conducted to inventory your car for “safekeeping” purposes. If they discover an illegal item then you can be in big trouble. Also, if you consent to a search, then they can of course search your vehicle. The law on this is very detailed and fact-oriented, so generalized advice may not apply to your circumstance.

If you’re asked to consent to a search, you should absolutely decline that request. There is no good reason to consent. Many defendants, knowing there is contraband in their car, have consented to a search because they think an officer won’t search if they agree to it. Needless to say, the search occurred and they had no defense to it. If an officer searches or threatens to search your vehicle, do not volunteer information to them. You could eliminate any defense you may have at court.

Absent probable cause on the scene, the officer cannot conduct a search without your consent. They may be on a fishing expedition for contraband – don’t take the bait by consenting! If a search was conducted without your consent, you need to notify your attorney as soon as representation begins. A motion to suppress is required to contest the validity of the search and exclude the results of it from trial, and that motion may need to be heard prior to your trial date. An experienced attorney can walk you through a thorny area of the law.

Q. I was arrested for stealing jewelry. The charge was grand larceny, even though what I took was pretty much worthless costume jewelry. What can I do?

A. It doesn’t take much in Virginia for theft to become a felony offense. There are two main larceny offenses in Virginia: petit larceny which is when the value of an item is under $200, and grand larceny when it is over $200. As you might imagine, it doesn’t take much these days for an item to be worth $200.

So how does one determine value? Normally the owner of the item will testify to its value. In shoplifting cases, it is a matter of looking at the price tags and going from there. When it is an older item such as jewelry, the basis is fair market value. That can be a pretty subjective determination, particularly when you’re close to that $200 mark.

Depending on your record, you may have some options when it comes to court. One option would be a deferred disposition or a reduction to the more benign misdemeanor of petit larceny. While still a crime of “moral turpitude,” petit larceny carries much less severe consequences than a grand larceny conviction, which is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in jail and a loss of some civil rights. However, even a petit larceny conviction can have consequences, particularly if you are an immigrant, so make sure you talk with an attorney in detail before accepting any plea.

Mathew B. Tully is the founding partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC. Located in Arlington, Va. and Washington, D.C., Tully Rinckey PLLC’s attorneys practice criminal defense, matrimonial and family law, federal employment law, and military law. To speak with an attorney, call 703-525-4700 or to learn more visit 1888law4life.com.

Recent Stories

Good Tuesday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 42526 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…

Two local chefs have been named semifinalists for a prestigious James Beard award.

The Ballston and East Falls Church Metro stations are among those set to be impacted by a multi-week closure starting in June.

Fairlington author Amina Luqman-Dawson has received two awards for her novel, “Freewater.” The middle-grade book about a secret community of formerly enslaved people living in the wilderness received both the…

Need help dealing with anxiety, depression or stress?

If you’re struggling to cope with anxiety, depression or stress, our virtual psychotherapy services can help. We offer a confidential and convenient service that’s tailored to your needs.

In our practice, cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT) is an important tool we use to provide effective relief for those facing anxiety and depression. We believe that cognitive change can be used to improve behaviors and emotions, thus allowing you to achieve mental wellness. By understanding the cognitive distortions that lead to negative thought patterns, we are able to create interventions tailored to each of our clients. This empowering approach can help you gain control of how your own thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors impact your experience. With CBT, our service provides an effective treatment that can bring long-term change and mental stability.

Book a free consultation today and see how we can help you live a happier and healthier life.

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

St. Charles offers a play-based curriculum in a welcoming, Christ-centered environment.

Our program focuses on socio-emotional development and kindergarten readiness through hands-on and engaging activities. Our programs offer different schedules ranging from 7:30 am-5:30 pm for students, ages 2-5. We feature a full-day Jr. kindergarten class for older 4’s/5’s. Our facility includes a full-sized gymnasium, school chapel, and library. All of our students enjoy music and physical education weekly. Children have an opportunity to participate in enrichment classes such as soccer, basketball, ballet, and science.

We offer Summer Camp with weekly themes and twice a week water play, including Fun Friday moon bounce. Please join us for our Open House Feb. 3 at 9:30 am and 11:00 am. Click here to sign-up.

For more information or to schedule a tour, visit us at www.stcharlesarlington.org or call (703) 527-0608.

Submit your own Announcement here.

Almost, Maine

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, join us for a series of vignettes that revolve around the theme of love. Taking place in an almost-town called Almost, Maine, we will show you different, but important, facet of love in each

First-time Moms Meet & Greet

The truth, your first pregnancy and new mom months are full of twists and turns, ups and downs, and lots of questions! None of us really know the best way to do it – we just figure it out, together…

×

Subscribe to our mailing list