Consider the following scenario:

After overhearing from a public telephone what appeared to be arrangements for a drug transaction, a police officer followed the defendant's car. When the driver committed a traffic violation, the officer stopped his car. The officer told the driver that he believed that he was carrying narcotics in his car and asked for consent to search the car. The driver said that he had nothing to hide. Indeed, having gotten consent, the officer opened the door on the passenger side and saw a folded brown paper bag on the floor of the car. The officer picked up the bag, opened it, and found cocaine inside.

  • Did the consent to search the car authorize opening the brown paper bag? Explain.
  • Should the evidence be permitted for use against the defendant?
  • Why or why not?

Expert Answers

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The answer to both questions is yes. Since automobiles may easily be moved, warrantless searches are considered reasonable in circumstances which would be considered unreasonable in the case of a fixed building. The defendant consented to the search, which would remove any taint of illegality about it. He did not...

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The answer to both questions is yes. Since automobiles may easily be moved, warrantless searches are considered reasonable in circumstances which would be considered unreasonable in the case of a fixed building. The defendant consented to the search, which would remove any taint of illegality about it. He did not restrict the area; but said, "go ahead, I have nothing to hide." The search was incident to a lawful traffic stop, and the officer apparently overheard the conversation quite inadvertently without eavesdropping or illegal wire tapping. Had the defendant refused, it is quite likely that the search would still have been legal, since it was the search of a vehicle.

Since the search itself was legal, then the evidence was obtained pursuant to a lawful search, and is therefore admissible against the defendant.

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