DUI & Police Search

police-officer-searches-carIt is common in DUI-DWI cases for a police officer to search the defendant and the defendant’s vehicle following the arrest of the defendant. The general rule is that once the defendant has been lawfully arrested for a drunk or impaired driving offense, the police officer may, incidental to the arrest, search the defendant and the portion of the defendant’s vehicle that is within the defendant’s immediate reach or control.

In a search incidental to a lawful drunk driving arrest, a police officer is usually permitted to search the passenger compartment of the defendant’s vehicle and any closed container found in the passenger compartment, whether or not the defendant is in the vehicle when the search is conducted. Warrantless searches of other areas of the defendant’s vehicle are generally unlawful in the absence of a valid consent to search the area or exigent circumstances such as the officer’s belief that the vehicle contains the fruits of a crime (i.e., the “fleeing vehicle” rule).