If the police stop you in Pennsylvania, they don’t need a warrant to search your car.
And soon, you could be in trouble even if they find nothing.
The state Supreme Court ruled last week that police are allowed to search vehicles without a warrant. The state General Assembly, meanwhile, is moving forward with a bill that would give cops the authority to arrest people caught with “secret compartments” in their vehicles, even if there is nothing illegal in those suspicious containers.
It adds up to greater authority for police and prosecutors but less privacy for Pennsylvania drivers.
The split-decision from the Supreme Court allows police to conduct searches of cars based only on probable cause — that is, as long as the officers conducting the search have a reason to believe there are illegal goods or evidence of a crime hidden inside the vehicle.
Writing for the majority in the 4-2 ruling, Justice Seamus McCaffery said requiring police to have probable cause for a search is “a strong and sufficient safeguard against illegal searches,” and brings state law in line with federal law allowing warrantless searches of vehicles.
Defense attorneys and civil liberties groups disagree.