Was my car searched legally and can I fight my charges in court? 2 Answers as of February 04, 2015

This morning around 10AM ,I rear-ended another vehicle and totaled my car while I was on my way to university. The accident was due to very icy conditions. No one was injured and only one officer responded. He took my name/registration and that of the other person involved in the accident. Everything was fine. I had gotten all my valuables out of the car, they were getting it ready to put on the tow truck, and I was literally walking to my boyfriend's truck to leave the scene when the officer asked me how old I was (I'm 20) and informed me that I was under arrest. I had no idea why and he didn't tell my why until I'd arrived at the station. Apparently at some point he had opened my trunk (this happened as I was leaving the scene and I had never given him permission to search my vehicle, if that matters) and found a zipped cooler with three unopened beers in it. He arrested me, didn't read me my rights, and like I said didn't even inform me why I was being arrested until I arrived at the station even though I asked repeatedly. The car is registered under my dad's name and I share it with him occasionally. He is obviously over twenty-one and I had no knowledge of the alcohol in my trunk (the car was a Honda Civic so you can't see into the trunk unless you open it). The officer did not breathalyze me and had no probable cause to search my vehicle. The vehicle was also not being towed by the police, but by a local small-town towing company. Like I said, he did not ask to search my vehicle nor did I even see him enter my car to pop the trunk open OR search the vehicle because I was leaving the scene. I was arrested, booked, and taken to court and am supposed to appear in front of a DA on Monday. I also have absolutely no criminal record - not even a speeding ticket. Is this something I could fight in court and get away with? I didn't think it was legal for an officer to search a vehicle without permission.

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Gregory Casale Attorney at Law
Gregory Casale Attorney at Law | Gregory Casale
It sounds like you have several options to defend yourself for this arrest. I would need to see the police report to know the reason, from their prospective, why they searched. Police to have the right to search after an arrest but that is only if they have the previous right to arrest you. You will obviously need legal counsel to do this as the courts are not a place to be unrepresented.
Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
Replied: 2/4/2015
Botelho Law Group | Joseph F. Botelho, Esq.
You are absolutely correct, from the set of circumstances you have provided I see no reason for probable cause. Because you are in a motor vehicle accident and your car needed to be towed from that location, does not give rise to the police able to search her vehicle. Furthermore, the vehicle is not yours and not registered under your name, and the alcohol was locked in the trunk, not within the vehicle and in your immediate area of control. If the alcohol was in the backseat, the Caribbean argument made that it was yours, but when something's locked in the trunk of the vehicle does not belong to the person driving it, there is not an automatic assumption that it's theirs. Furthermore, I cannot see any reason for the police officer to have open the trunk at all. The whole matter had been resolved and you are about to leave, thus there was no probable cores or he would've kept questioning you. I would seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense lawyer an attempt to get this matter resolved prior to arraignment. I feel you have an extremely strong case that is completely winnable, but you're still gonna have to fight this in court.
Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
Replied: 2/2/2015
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