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PA Supreme Court Rules That No Warrant Is Needed to Search Vehicles

Posted On: May 2, 2014 by Marc Neff

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has recently ruled that a search warrant is no longer needed when searching a vehicle, so long as probable cause exists. The Court determined that the Pennsylvania Constitution does not provide a greater protection than the Federal Constitution and effectively brings the Pennsylvania search and seizure law in alignment with Federal law.

The facts presented to the court arise from a motor vehicle stop in Philadelphia. The officers stopped the vehicle on a motor vehicle violation and on their approach to the vehicle, noticed a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle. When asked if there was anything in the vehicle that the police should know about, the operator admitted that there may be weed in the car. Based upon the strong odor of marijuana and the admission by the operator, the court determined that there was sufficient evidence to support a finding of probable cause.

Based on this ruling, the Court review reveals no compelling reason to interpret Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution as providing greater protection with regard to warrantless searches of motor vehicles than does the Fourth Amendment. This is a direct departure from the current Pennsylvania law directing that warrants are needed for vehicle searches. Therefore, the law governing warrantless searches of motor vehicles is coextensive with federal law under the Fourth Amendment. Now, the prerequisite for a warrantless search of a motor vehicle is probable cause to search.


All persons charged with crimes are entitled to the protections afforded by the United States Constitution and the rules of evidence in a criminal court of law. An experienced criminal defense attorney helps to ensure that a defendant’s rights are protected before, during and after a trial. If you have been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney immediately. For a confidential consultation, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff at (215) 563-9800 or via email at marc@nefflawoffices.com.

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Posted in: Drug Crimes