Posts

Vehicle Searches in Connecticut

Traffic infractions are among the most common infractions committed by citizens in the State of Connecticut and elsewhere the country. Relatedly, citizens frequently run into issues with the law as a consequence of evidence obtained in the course of a traffic stop. The typical scenario involves the following facts: a motorist is stopped for a legitimate traffic violation – speeding, failing to yield, etc. – and then, for a variety of reasons, a police officer recovers a piece of incriminating evidence in the motorist’s vehicle. This incriminating evidence then leads to a more serious criminal charge, such as drug possession or illegal possession of a firearm. 

Police Need a Lawful Basis for the Initial Stop

Because this scenario is so common, the permissibility of vehicle searches after a traffic stop is among the most researched legal issue by laypeople. In this post, we will discuss some of the basic issues involved with motor vehicle searches in Connecticut.

Some people mistakenly believe that police can simply initiate a traffic stop whenever they wish, without having a legitimate basis for the stop. The truth, however, is that police must have a lawful reason to initiate a traffic stop. The basis of this fact stems from the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. Court rulings have extended the reach of this amendment to include traffic stops. This means that police cannot simply pull your car over without a good reason. 

In most cases, police will only initiate a stop if they have clear evidence of a traffic violation, such as a reading of your speed (while speeding), confirmation of expired tags, and so forth. Importantly, if police initiate a stop without a lawful basis, then any evidence found during a search will typically be inadmissible at trial.

Police Need Independent Probable Case for a Search

Even if police have lawful basis to conduct a stop, this doesn’t necessarily grant them authority to conduct a search of your vehicle. Contrary to what some may suppose, police need independent probable cause to search your vehicle. This means that they need an articulable reason to believe that evidence of criminal activity may exist within your vehicle. Probable cause is a context-dependent concept which may be present depending on the particular facts of a given case. However, there are certain facts which have been shown to support a determination of probable cause in most cases. For instance, if an officer smells illegal drugs, or sees drugs, these things will typically give probable cause for a search.

New Law Prohibits Police from Requesting Consent

Importantly, police in Connecticut can no longer bypass the probable cause requirement for a search. Effective October 1, 2020, a new “police accountability” law holds that police officers cannot request consent to search a vehicle in the absence of probable cause. Previously, before this law, officers would often simply request a motorist for permission to search a vehicle; if a motorist gave consent, this was typically sufficient to warrant a search. However, the new accountability law prohibits officers from making such requests. But, if a motorist gives consent in an unsolicited manner, this voluntary consent will still suffice. 

Contact the Apex Law Firm for More Info

As with nearly every area, the specific facts of every case are needed to produce a definitive response, but the best basic rule to follow is to never, under any circumstances, give consent to police to search your car. If you would like more information, or need counsel on a given case, contact Apex Law Firm today by calling 860-900-0900.

Do I Need to Call the Police to the Scene of an Accident in Connecticut?

Being involved in a car accident isn’t just upsetting; it can also raise questions about what you are legally obligated to do moving forward. One question that we often hear is regarding the legal requirement to call the police to the scene of an accident in Connecticut. The answer, however, is dependent upon many factors, including the extent of injuries and the amount of property damage. Here’s an overview of what you need to know about calling the police to the scene of an accident in Connecticut.

Your Responsibilities after an Accident in Connecticut

Whether or not you have to call the police to the scene of an accident in Connecticut can be confusing. The laws regarding your legal duties after an accident are found in Connecticut code Section 14-224, and are explained, in brief, below:

  • When an accident results in death. When an accident results in death in Connecticut, an operator of a motor vehicle is legally obligated to immediately stop their vehicle and render reasonable assistance and should immediately report the death to a police officer. It should go without saying that if you are in an accident that results in death, you should not hesitate to call the police to the scene of the accident.
  • When an accident results in serious or minor injuries. If an accident occurs that results in injuries to a party, whether those injuries are serious or minor, you are required to stop your vehicle, render reasonable assistance, and provide the other party with your name, address, driver’s license number, and registration information. You are also required to report the accident to the police. Keep in mind that when injuries are serious, rendering “such assistance that may be needed” could very well include calling the police to obtain emergency services. As such, you should not hesitate to contact the police and call them to the accident scene.
  • When an accident results in property damage. Did you know that if you are involved in an accident in Connecticut that causes property damage, even if no one sustains injuries, you are required to stop your vehicle at the scene? You are also required to provide the owner of the property that was damaged with your name, address, and driver’s license number and registration information. Further, if you are unable to provide the other party with this information (i.e. you hit a vehicle that was unoccupied), you must report the incident to the police. However, you do not necessarily need to call the police to the accident scene.

The Importance of Reporting an Accident to the Police

Not only is the reporting of an accident to the police a legal requirement in most cases, but reporting an accident can also help to protect your rights during the claims process. This is because having a police report on file provides a source of proof that the accident occurred, and that damages–whether to your person or vehicle–were sustained. What’s more, in the event of serious crashes where injuries are sustained or property damage totals more than a few hundred dollars, calling the police to the scene is advised as a police report provides an additional form of evidence. When a police officer can come to the scene of the crash, they will be able to make more detailed notes about what they believe happened, the position of the vehicles, other forms of evidence (skid marks), and obvious damage. Coming to the scene of an accident also provides an officer with the ability to interview witnesses.

Filing a Claim and Recovering Your Maximum Settlement Amount after a Connecticut Crash

If you are injured in an accident in Connecticut, we encourage you to contact our experienced Connecticut car accident lawyers at The APEX Law Firm, LLC. We serve clients throughout the state and can review your case for free today. Contact The APEX Law Firm today at (860) 900-0900 in Hartford County or visit us at uptonlegal.com to schedule a free consultation today – our attorneys are ready to help you!