All Florida police officers have a specific protocol when stopping motorists. They can request certain information related to the driver and vehicle registration requirements, including current proof of insurance on the vehicle being driven. This is well established as legal precedent. However, they are also trained in observing others in the vehicle as well as any signs that a driver is impaired in any way. In many respects, the traffic stop is essentially an excuse to look for any “reasonable suspicion” claims they can use to justify searching the vehicle when they think anyone inside has drugs in their possession.
The “plain sight” rule
Not only can police use the demeanor and observed condition of the driver to justify searching a vehicle for drugs, they can also use claims of anything they have observed inside the vehicle. This includes actions of both drivers and passengers during the time between turning on their lights to signal a stop and actually questioning the driver. They can then use this information in court to justify any citation for drug charges when contraband is found in the vehicle or on the person of any passenger as long as the owner consents to a vehicle search.
Search procedures when owners do not consent
There are assuredly instances when an officer wants to search a vehicle even when there are no signs of impairment among the driver or any passengers. The problem is that the only suspicion they have is their natural suspicion due to in-depth training. Not only is impairment an issue, but any unusual activity by the driver or any passenger can be claimed as suspicious activity as well. However, they will need a warrant from a judge in order to search a vehicle when there is no apparent reason to continue an investigation into potential drug charges.
Always remember that you do have a right to refuse consent to search your vehicle or comply with an investigation in a Florida traffic stop. While this can spur even more suspicion from an officer, there is still a right to non-interference from police officers when there are no apparent signs of illegal activity.