Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling allows warrant-less car searches

PA Supreme Court ruling allows warrant-less car searches

Police officers in Pennsylvania no longer need a warrant to search vehicles.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court made the decision this week.

Under the ruling, officers can search a car based on probable cause and no longer need to get a warrant to do so.

Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio supports the opinion.

"Before this case law, if you stopped a vehicle and let's say the officer smelled marijuana in the vehicle and this was on a traffic stop, meaning a moving vehicle, and he got the people out of the car, he could not search that car. He had to secure that car or impound it and get a search warrant," explained DiLuzio.

"All this case law does is streamline some guidelines on what we can do and what we can't do," said DiLuzio. "It doesn't give the police any extra power. They still must have probable cause."

DiLuzio pointed out the court opinion applies to cars that are moveable, so for example, a traffic stop.

He said officers still need a warrant for a car that is parked or for example, on blocks or in a junk yard.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania disagrees with the decision.

"We're disappointed. We didn't think there was anything, any compelling need that required a change," said executive director Reggie Shuford. "Anything in our opinion that gives police greater discretion and authority and that requires less accountability is a concern when it concerns the very important right to privacy."

Chief DiLuzio said the opinion puts Pennsylvania in line with many other states' and federal guidelines.

His officers will go through additional training on the issue.

"We're going to make sure they understand the court decision, what they can do, what they can't do," he said. "We don't want to violate people's rights and we don't want to lose cases based on bad searches."

Shuford said he agrees training is important but still disagrees with the court ruling.

He said, "We think this decision is likely to increase greater police abuse."

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