Pa. Supreme Court rules on vehicle searches

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This week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on when police can search your vehicle and there is a change; no warrant needed.

The change already took effect.

Before, police needed the owner’s consent to search a vehicle or a warrant signed by a judge. Now, officers only need probable cause. That means that, for example, if police pull over a driver and smell marijuana, that would be reasonable probable cause.

Police and prosecutors say it’s a welcome change and one that will increase public safety.

“We still have to have probable cause to search a car…probable cause that evidence of a crime is inside that car. That hasn’t changed. The question is whether or not a judge makes the determination on that probable cause before the search or some later time,” Dauphin County prosecutor Fran Chardo said.

The ruling has some concerned. A dissenting judge wrote that the decision counters the need to protect the public from unreasonable search and seizure.

“It’s a good thing at some points, it’s a bad thing at some points, but my gut feeling is that it could be abused,” Becky Havice from Lewistown said.  

The decision to adopt the federal procedure falls in line with many other states. 

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