PA Supreme Court: Police Can Search Vehicles Without Warrant

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling allows authorities to conduct a search of a citizen’s vehicle without a warrant.

Pennsylvania citizens were formerly able to refuse to let an officer search their car without a warrant signed by a judge. In a ruling released Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery says that’s no longer the case.

Critics say the decision violates Fourth Amendment rights.

In her dissent, Justice Debra Todd called the change "diametrically contrary to the deep historical and legal traditions” – a ruling which "contravenes over 225 years of unyielding protection against unreasonable search and seizure."

The case involved a 2010 vehicle stop in Philadelphia in which officers found two pounds of marijuana during a warrantless search. Shiem Gary appealed stating that police had no probable cause to search under the hood of his vehicle.

Defense attorney Michael Winter said in Gary’s case the officers had probable cause because Gary’s vehicle had a window tint they believe was illegal.

“This does not mean that they may search every vehicle they stop,” Winter said. “They must still develop probable cause before they are permitted to search your vehicle without a warrant.”

Furthermore, Gary allegedly told officers their was “weed” in the car before they searched it.

Sources: Lancaster Online, Fairfield Citizen