Q: What Pennsylvania case law allows for a police officer to search a vehicle when the subjects admits to having drugs
And where can the officer search? Just the area the subject admitted to having or to the entire vehicle?
Once an individual admits to drug possession, an officer can then arrest that person and search that person "incident to arrest." In general, once you're arrested, you can be searched -- and so can your car, if you're in it when arrested.
Recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed for vehicle searches as an exception to the "exclusionary rule" which normally requires a search warrant (off the top of my head, I believe the case is Com. v. Gary). That includes containers within the vehicle as well, like purses, backpacks, glove compartments, etc. Everything. In addition, the cops could choose to tow your car and also search it to create an inventory of all items within -- so there's a second reason they'd be able to perform a search of the entire car.
If you'd like to discuss your case in further detail -- and there may be other ways to challenge any search performed -- feel free to contact me offsite. Best of luck to you.
Zak Taylor Goldstein agrees with this answer
A: A police officer can search a car when they have probable cause to do so under Commonwealth v. Gary. If they have probable cause to search the car, they can search the entire car and any containers therein. Probable cause means that a reasonable person would expect to find contraband as a result of the search. If you tell an officer that you have drugs in the car, they can search the entire car and any containers in the car.
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