A guest post from U.S. Law Shield U.S. Law Shield is concerned about a Pennsylvania state Supreme Court decision that says police officers no longer need a warrant to search a citizen’s vehicle. Previously, citizens could refuse an officer’s request to search a vehicle. In most cases, the officer would then need a warrant — signed by a judge — to conduct the search.
That’s no longer the case, according to the 4-2 opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania V. Sheim Gary: “In this case, we again address the requirements in this Commonwealth for a warrantless search of a motor vehicle. After consideration of relevant federal and state law, we now hold that with respect to a warrantless search of a motor vehicle that is supported by probable cause, Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution affords no greater protection than the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Accordingly, we adopt the federal automobile exception to the warrant requirement, which allows police officers to search a motor vehicle when there is probable cause to do so and does not require any exigency beyond the inherent mobility of a motor vehicle.” Previously, a warrantless search was only allowed if “exigent circumstances” existed, the opinion states.
Police said this case gives the police simpler guidelines to follow and renders state law consistent with established federal law. Defense attorneys said the decision expands government power.
Do you agree or disagree with the opinion? If an officer wants to search your vehicle without your consent, should they have to get approval from a judge? And what’s to stop this new police power from being expanded to searches of homes? One of U.S. Law Shield’s biggest worries is that other states may follow suit. Might that happen where you live?