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Is it Unconstitutional for Cops to Ask a Motorist if They Have a Weapon?


People living in the United States have various constitutional rights afforded them. One of those is the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. If the police don’t have probable cause or a warrant to look through someone’s personal property, they cannot do so. In cases where law enforcement did not have a valid reason nor a court order, any evidence obtained can be suppressed at trial if the person was charged with an offense.

Police Asking Motorists About Firearms Is Legal

In 2019, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reviewed a case in which a man was charged with a weapons violation for having a gun in his vehicle without a permit. He argued that when law enforcement confiscated his firearm, they violated his Fourth Amendment right. However, the Court disagreed, ruling that the police did not conduct an illegal search and seizure.

Background of the Case

In 2016, officers pulled the man over for having a broken taillight. During the stop, the cops asked if he had a concealed carry permit on him and if he had a gun in the car. He told them that he was taking a class to get his firearm license and had a gun in the glove compartment.

When the officers searched the vehicle, they found the loaded weapon and arrested the man for carrying a firearm without a permit.

At trial, the man filed a motion to suppress the firearm evidence because it was obtained illegally. The court granted the request, stating that, although the stop was legal, asking about a weapon and searching the vehicle was not.

Appealing the Decision to Grant the Motion

The State took the case to appeals court, arguing that the officers did not unlawfully extend the traffic stop when they questioned the man about his firearm permit and weapon. The appeals court upheld the trial court’s decision.

The case was taken to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The Justices unanimously ruled that officers can ask questions about weapons during traffic stops as safety precautions. Doing so does not unlawfully extend the stop. The Court overruled the lower courts’ decisions and sent the case back to the trial court, with the firearm evidence being allowed.

For Legal Advice 24/7, Contact the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella

If you were charged with an offense, call our team today. Our attorney is a former prosecutor and knows what the other side must do to submit evidence in court. We will fight hard to protect your rights and ensure your constitutional protections were not violated during the course of the arrest. By thoroughly preparing for your case, we will be ready to challenge the prosecutor’s allegations should it go to trial.

Schedule your free consultation by calling us at (414) 882-8382 or contacting us online.

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