Do Police Need a Warrant to Search My Car?

The following is a video transcript.

You’re driving home after a nice dinner and you see those red, white, and blue lamps light up behind you. Your stomach drops as you look down to the dashboard. Was I speeding? Maybe he’s going to go around me. You slow down and pull over and the officer follows suit. You roll down your windows, turn on the interior car lights, place your hands on the steering wheel, and wait for the officer.

Unbeknownst to you, a pickup truck with the same color and model as yours was just used in an armed robbery in the parking lot of a nearby grocery store. The officer orders you out of the car, demands your ID, and immediately handcuffs you. He sees you have a license or permit to carry a concealed weapon and starts rifling through your truck, looking for your gun.

Even though the officer realizes you aren’t the robber, he finds the gun and accuses you of carrying it or transporting it illegally. He doesn’t like your attitude and puts you in the back of his car. Are you arrested? You weren’t given any Miranda warnings. What should you do? In a previous video, we discussed the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, what a search warrant is and the most common exception to its requirement: consent.

In this video, we’ll cover how an officer can search your vehicle regardless of your feelings on the matter. The Fourth Amendment presumes that a police search without a warrant is unreasonable. To beat this presumption, there must be a compelling interest in police or public safety, the preservation of evidence, or both. We’ll cover exceptions to the warrant requirement most commonly encountered when driving a vehicle.

Automobile Exception

First up, the automobile exception. In Caroll v. United States, the Supreme Court held that an automobile is more difficult to secure and detain than a building or property when the police seek a search warrant. This rationale has expanded to allow warrantless searches of automobiles because there’s a lessened expectation of privacy in vehicles. The interior of the vehicle is open to plain view and cars are subject to government regulations.

There is also a lower expectation of privacy in a car and in its compartments, containers, and packages contained or transported inside. The law requires police have a reasonable suspicion that a violation of the law has occurred to instigate a traffic stop. Then, the police must establish probable cause that the car or its compartments and containers hold evidence of a crime for a legal warrantless search.

Arrest Exception

Now, let’s talk about the search incident to arrest exception. Courts have long held it reasonable for a police officer to search a person who is placed under arrest for weapons and evidence of a crime. The original rule made it reasonable to search an arrested person’s body and clothing but was later expanded to include any objects the person may have in their possession.

In Chimel v. California, the Supreme Court increased the search area to any place within the person’s immediate control at the time they’re arrested, because an arrested person could lunge or grab for a weapon or evidence lying nearby. This is known as the Wingspan Rule. Let’s visit how these two exceptions play out together during roadside stops.

In Belton v. New York, the Supreme Court ruled that if a driver was arrested for any reason, the driver and the car’s interior (including containers or bags) could be searched by police without a warrant. However, the police must still have probable cause that a crime has been committed or will be committed to search the trunk without a warrant. The Supreme Court expanded these rules to include when a person is outside of a car they just exited, their vehicle may be searched if it is reasonable to believe that it may contain evidence related to the offense for which they were arrested. However, the Supreme Court has limited this type of warrantless search in Arizona v. Gant, so that if a person is no longer able to access the inside of the car, or there is no probable cause to believe that it contains evidence of the offense, the police cannot proceed with a warrantless search. Finally, courts have long held that police may search an arrested person’s entire vehicle and trunk when it’s impounded. This is known as the Inventory Rule.

Returning to our roadside example, the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop you because of the similar truck involved in a robbery. It was also reasonable to order you out of your truck and detain you to make sure you weren’t the bad guy. Finally, most courts would likely find it reasonable for him to search your truck and seize your firearm if you were arrested for a weapons violation, thanks to the warrant exceptions we’ve just discussed. What if the officer was completely wrong about arresting you? You’d most likely avoid a conviction, but not without a free ride to jail and an introduction to the pains of getting your gun back from the police after your case is closed.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the automobile exceptions or warrants in general call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney today.

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Can I Defend Myself in a Texas Mall Parking Lot?

The following is a video transcript.

It’s the holiday season, and that means folks are out hunting for the perfect gift at the local mall and making last-minute trips to the grocery store. It can be hectic, so we wanted to take a moment and share some tips to keep you and your family safe this time of year. As responsible gun owners, we all prepare and practice for that worst-case scenario, and the foundation of responding to any threat or emergency is awareness. Unfortunately, to-do lists, errands, and life can sometimes get in the way of our situational awareness. Carrying a handgun in public is routine for many of us, but it is important to remember not to be complacent.

Apart from the drive to and from the local mall, one of the most dangerous places we can find ourselves is in the parking lot. According to the latest available data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 7% of all violent crime occurs in parking lots or garages. The laws of justification and self-defense are applicable in these public spaces, but we should take the time to remind ourselves that our actions must always be reasonable and immediately necessary under the circumstances.

Why bring this up now? It’s because a lack of situational awareness when acting in self-defense or defense of others could make a huge difference if a jury is asked to decide whether or not your actions were reasonable and immediately necessary under the circumstances. What is the takeaway? Slow down, take note of your surroundings, and have a plan in case you have to act. But what if you’re walking back to your car and someone attempts to rob you, or worse yet, they exhibit a deadly weapon in an attempt to commit an aggravated robbery? In both of those cases, the law would give you a powerful legal presumption that your use of force or deadly force would be reasonable and immediately necessary.

Change the facts just slightly. What if, on the walk back to your unoccupied car, you see someone trying to burglarize it? We’ve talked about using deadly force against a burglar in the past, but there are several types of burglary: burglary of a habitation, vehicle, rail car, and even a coin-operated machine. But all burglaries are not created equally. Is it reasonable to use deadly force against someone breaking into an unoccupied car? Probably not. The Justification Statute uses the term burglary in a general sense. It’s largely accepted that deadly force is justified when there’s a burglary into a habitation or a building, but the issue is unresolved when it comes to vehicles. There is no case law on the use of deadly force against someone breaking into an unoccupied vehicle. With that said, don’t do it unless you want to become a test case.

We hope you and your family have a happy and safe holiday season. But, if you have any questions about self-defense in public, call Texas LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.


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Can I Defend Myself in a New Jersey Mall Parking Lot?

The following is a video transcript.

With the holidays here, you need to be aware of your surroundings. There are a lot of folks out there that would like to take advantage of you: to steal from you or to even cause you bodily harm. Being aware of your surroundings is very important, and having that situational awareness is a skill that will help protect your life and the lives of your loved ones.

In terms of self-defense, New Jersey is difficult because the laws are so restrictive, and because law-abiding citizens are denied the ability to carry the most effective means of self-defense (that being a firearm).

We don’t really want to be victims, but we also don’t want to violate the law. So, some important things you can do is, of course, try to avoid becoming a victim by being aware of your surroundings.

In addition, there are some things you are allowed to do to protect yourself. They’re limited, but you are allowed to have pepper spray under three-quarters of an ounce. Also, a cell phone can take photographs and videos can often be useful in getting and apprehending a wrongdoer. Short of that, there isn’t much that individuals can do to lawfully defend themselves in New Jersey. That has basically been curtailed by the legislature.

Remain aware of your surroundings and try to avoid any situation where you can sense or feel the danger. Listen to what your mind is telling you about that danger. We have that ability. It’s in us folks. Listen to it and stay safe for the holidays.

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The One Thing You Must Do After a Road Rage Incident

The following is a video transcript.

You’re sitting in traffic when someone cuts you off. Angrily, you honk your horn. The other driver aggressively changes lanes and pulls up beside you. He rolls down his window, and you watch him frantically reaching into his glove box. What happens next and how you respond could send your life into a tailspin.

Road rage incidents are scary. When driving at high speed with your attention divided in a high-stress environment, you have limited time to think. Based on past experience from U.S. LawShield members from around the country, they’d like to share the important lessons some have learned the hard way. You need to have a plan if you find yourself in this situation.

Do you call 911? Do you try to get away? Do you drive home? What if you’re forced to protect yourself? Do you provide a statement to the police? Do you have a plan for the legal repercussions to follow?

Incidents like this happen all the time, and sadly, all too often, innocent people find themselves tangled in a long legal fight. Maybe they thought the danger had passed. The fight was over. They stopped the perpetrator from committing a crime against them or their family. Why call the police if no crime occurred?

A recurring theme for people tangled in the legal system is this: they didn’t speak to an attorney prior to talking with the police. What you say after a road rage incident can mean the difference between finishing your drive home or winding up in handcuffs downtown. The time for you to formulate a plan is now.

If you’re involved in a self-defense incident, including road rage, you should speak to an attorney before you make any statement to the police. Call the U.S. LawShield emergency hotline and your Independent Program Attorney will provide the help you need to navigate through these difficult situations.

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Employee Spotlight: Jonathan Rowley

Jonathan Rowley, Veteran, Active Military Duty

Here at U.S. LawShield, we care about the communities we serve because we are your neighbors, your friends, and your family members. Take a look behind the scenes and meet Jonathan Rowley, Lead Web Developer and First Aid for GunShot Wounds Certification Program Instructor at U.S. LawShield.

Before beginning his career with us, Jonathan found a passion for problem-solving and troubleshooting from over 10 years of experience in medical rescue. Since then, he has shifted his career and focus to his computer skills and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Cybersecurity.

Jonathan first joined the U.S. LawShield family in March 2016 as Lead Web Developer, with over 10 years of applied experience in the industry. As U.S. LawShield has grown within the states and continues to offer even greater service to its members, Jonathan maintains all current systems within the company as a Subject Matter Expert; contributing feedback and working alongside the development team to create all new websites and portals.

In addition to working at U.S. LawShield, Jonathan currently serves in the Army National Guard, having first begun his service in 2007, and previously served in the Marine Corps for 4 years. With 15 total years dedicated to this great country, Jonathan plans to retire from active military duty soon but will continue to serve his countrymen as one of the lead instructors in U.S. LawShield’s First Aid for Gunshot Wounds Certification Program.

Jonathan is no stranger to guns. His first gun was a Taurus 911 9mm and his current favorite is his AR-15, as it reminds him of competition shooting in the Marines. As a gun owner and a veteran, he advises all to respect your gun as you respect yourself. If you are in need of self-defense tips, Jonathan recommends getting distance, seeking cover if possible, and shooting straight.

We thank Jonathan for his service and work here at U.S. LawShield, as his problem-solving and first-hand medical expertise refines the U.S. LawShield member experience.


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Faulty Tourniquets Can Kill You

The following is a video transcript.

There are many different types of tourniquets on the market, but not all of them are created equal because they all have different functions. Some are designed to be low-pressure tourniquets, like what you see in a doctor’s office when blood is drawn. Others are designed to be high-pressure tourniquets that completely stop bleeding in an extremity.

Obviously, you want the high-pressure tourniquet in any type of traumatic situation. When looking online, manufacturers rarely mention any type of scientific study or data that indicates that their tourniquets actually work in a life-threatening situation.

Fortunately, the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC) has already done this research for you and has made recommendations on the tourniquets for use in the battlefield and for dealing with these life-threatening bleeding situations.

Currently, this committee is recommending the Combat Application Tourniquet or “CAT” tourniquet and the Special Operations Forces Tactical Tourniquet, or “SOFT-T” for use by the military. Now, there’s also a third tourniquet, the Ratcheting Medical Tourniquets, or “RMT,” which has been recently developed and has also been testing very well.

However, there are multiple suppliers making counterfeit versions of the CAT and the SOFT-T. They might be cheap, and they may look similar, but the failure rate is high due to faulty manufacturing and cheaper components, so you want to avoid these at all costs. Cheaper is never better when it comes to buying a device that your life may depend upon.

And that’s why U.S. LawShield has teamed up with North American Rescue to put together a U.S. LawShield Gunshot Wound First Aid Kit that includes two CAT tourniquets as well as the other medical supplies that we talk about in our course that you will need.

So now that you know where to get the tourniquet and where to get the medical supplies, let’s learn how to properly use it. So, get certified with our online first aid course for gunshot wounds through the U.S. LawShield 2A Institute and we will teach you the specifics on the application of a tourniquet and other critical life-saving techniques.

It’s up to you. So, take the initiative. Pursue the knowledge and learn those critical skills that are necessary to keep yourself and those around you alive until help arrives.

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Traveling with Firearms State Spotlight: Colorado

The following is a video transcript.

Doug Richards here for U.S. LawShield of Colorado. I want to talk to you today about visiting our great state. If you do visit our great state with a firearm, there are some things that you need to know.

First of all, the most important thing to know right out of the gate is that we do have a ban on magazines that accept more than 15 rounds. If you come to Colorado and your firearm has a magazine that accepts more than 15, you need to leave that at home and plan on buying new magazines here in Colorado (or just pick up new magazines before you come here). But if you do get stopped, and they search you and find that you have a magazine that accepts more than 15 rounds, you can be charged with a crime.

Colorado does allow open carry, but I don’t recommend it. It draws a lot of unnecessary attention to yourself and there are a lot of other reasons why I would recommend that you not carry openly. If you do open carry, you need to remember that you cannot open carry inside of the city and county of Denver, and you cannot open carry in Boulder. Both Boulder and Denver also have assault rifle bans; if you plan on bringing an assault rifle (or quite frankly anything more than a semi-automatic or a regular center-fire rifle) or a shotgun to any of these two places, give me a call, let’s talk about your specific circumstances.

Colorado has reciprocity with most other states in terms of CCW’s or CHL’s. So, if you are licensed to carry a concealed handgun in your home state, it’s very likely that you can carry a concealed handgun here in Colorado. Obviously, check to make sure; you’re welcome to call my office, and we can help point you in the right direction on that. If you are not licensed, you can still carry your firearm concealed on private property or inside of your vehicle, but if you step out of your vehicle, and you are carrying concealed without a license, you can be charged with a crime.

If you’re carrying concealed in Colorado and you have a license, you have to be aware of any signage that says, “No Firearms.” Now those signs do not carry the force of law, meaning you cannot be charged with a separate crime just by violating those signs; however, if you catch the wrong prosecutor or police officer, I think you could be charged with unlawfully carrying a concealed firearm or trespass, in addition to potentially losing your CCW privileges altogether.

Now, you cannot carry concealed or openly into a school for that matter. Finally, Colorado does not have a Stand Your Ground Law, similar to Florida. We do have a self-defense statute that is very good to the fact-specific analysis: it examines the reasonableness of your conduct and the amount of force that you used under those circumstances. You should be aware of our self-defense statutes before you come to Colorado because it is nothing like Stand your Ground, in Florida or anywhere else.

If you have any questions about this or anything else, feel free to give me a call at my office, as I am always happy to talk to U.S. LawShield members.

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Can I Defend Myself In a Colorado Mall Parking Lot?

The following is a video transcript.

Doug Richards for U.S. LawShield of Colorado, coming to you from our beautiful Denver office. I want to talk to you today about our upcoming holidays and what you can do if you find yourself in a situation where somebody tries to either attack you or steal from you and you are in the mall parking lot. As sad as this is, it does occur quite frequently during this time of year.

Thieves and bandits and scammers. They know that you are more likely to have more cash on you at this time of year, as you go into or out of a mall. They may try to take advantage of that because, after all, they are generally opportunists.

So, what can you do? What should you do? Let’s just imagine you’re in a situation where you have just come out of the mall and you’re putting your child into their car seat: you’ve got some packages on the ground or in your trunk and the trunk is open, and somebody comes up, grabs one of those packages, and runs away. You cannot, and certainly should not, pull your firearm out and shoot at that person or fire up in the air because you cannot use deadly force to defend against a theft of property or damaging of property in Colorado. In other states you are allowed to do that, but in Colorado, you may not use deadly force to defend property.

Imagine a situation that’s a little bit different though, and the person–this bandit–their aggression gets directed towards you and they’re either going to steal a package directly from you, or take money from you, and you feel that you are in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury (or another person with you is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury because of this bandit’s actions). You may, in that situation, use self-defense (including deadly force), to defend yourself or that third party.

You will be judged under that reasonable person standard that we’ve talked about so much on other videos. That really asks whether or not your conduct and the amount of force you used under the circumstances was reasonable.

If you’ve got any questions about this or anything else, feel free to call me at my office. I’m always happy to talk to U.S. LawShield members.

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Can I Defend Myself in a Georgia Mall Parking Lot?

The following is a video transcript.

Can you protect yourself in the mall parking lot? Well, a straightforward question deserves a straightforward answer. Yes, you absolutely can protect yourself in the mall parking lot. Not only yourself, however; you can protect any other person to the same extent that he or she could protect himself or herself. Now, in Georgia, the law justifies your use of the threats of force, force, and even deadly force so long as there are sufficient circumstances that will allow you to do so.

Let’s talk about the threats of force and force first. The law justifies your use of the threats of force and force if you have a reasonable belief it is necessary to protect yourself or any other person from an unlawful force. So, if you perceive that you must act by threatening force or using force to protect yourself or any other person from unlawful force or an unwanted touching, the law justifies your action.

Not only that, you can use force which includes deadly force (force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm) if you feel you must act to prevent death or great bodily injury or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. So, if you have a reasonable belief that death or great bodily injury will result if you fail to act, the law justifies your use of deadly force.

Not only that, if you perceive that you must act in order to prevent a forcible felony (some felony that has an element of personal force in it such as armed robbery, murder, rape, and aggravated assault) the law in Georgia justifies your actions. So yes, you can protect yourself in the mall parking lot, but not only yourself, you can protect any other person as well.

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Can I Defend Myself in an Ohio Mall Parking Lot?

The following is a video transcript.

I wanted to talk to you about defending yourself while out and about this holiday season. Obviously, Christmas brings with it the inevitable shopping season. And while many of you might be like me and do as much of your shopping from the convenient confines of your own home, many of you still enjoy heading out to the malls and shops to get the full experience. If you are so brave, then situational awareness is a must. In layman’s terms, it boils down to knowing what’s going on around you at all times and then using that information to make decisions.

So you might be asking yourself, “Why am I talking about this? I thought we were talking about Christmas.” Well, when you’re out and about in all of that chaos which is the Christmas shopping season, you need to be aware of your surroundings. Not everyone is full of cheer, after all. Thefts and assaults in mall parking lots are not uncommon.

And remember, it’s winter time. It’s cold. People’s emotions and mental well-being are taxed around this time of year and you never know what’s going on in their head. Some people may simply be looking for a handout, and may be aggressive about it. Some may want to use force in taking your newly purchased gifts as you exit the store and return to your car. And some may otherwise be contemplating some level of random violence.

Regardless of the situation, you can always use force to defend yourself. The level of force will be determined by the situation. Let’s focus on the mall parking lot as our example. You’ve traveled around all day buying things from different stores, and you park and enter the mall, your backseat now full of bags. When you exit the store, you find someone in your vehicle attempting to steal your packages. Maybe they’ve even broken out the window to gain access. You cannot use your firearm and deadly force to protect property in the State of Ohio. So if you find someone stealing packages from your car, you cannot shoot them to prevent the theft.

If the confrontation with them turns violent, then the situation has shifted from what began as a property crime to one now of assault, and deadly force may be justified (again, depending on the circumstance). Remember, you may use basic physical force to stop someone from stealing your property, just not deadly force. If it isn’t a property crime, but an assault situation, then Ohio’s Self-Defense Law dictates only the amount of force necessary to prevent the assault may be used. And you can never use deadly force unless you have that bonafide belief that you’re going to be killed or suffer great bodily harm.

All that being said, always remember to be aware of your surroundings, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

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