What Happens if I’m Pulled Over and Have Drugs in My Car?

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The first thing you need to keep in mind if you’re using drugs, even if it’s something legal like cannabis, is that in California, DUI indicates under the influence of drugs as well as alcohol. That means that if a patrol officer suspects that you’re driving after being high on drugs, they can pull you over, issue a battery of sobriety tests, and arrest you. If the drugs you used were illegal, you could face serious drug use charges as well as a DUI charge.

If you use drugs each time you get into your car, give the interior a quick scan. Is there any drug paraphernalia in obvious sight? If so, tuck it away so no one can see it. This is an extremely important thing that needs to happen every single time you get into your car. 

The reason you want to make sure any drug paraphernalia is tucked out of sight I because if you’re pulled over, and the police officer sees the paraphernalia, they instantly gain the right to search your car. While a search warrant is required for most vehicle searches, spotting some drug paraphernalia lying on the passenger seat or forgotten on the floorboards instantly gives the police something called probable cause, which allows them to search your vehicle and potentially find more drugs. Suddenly what started out as a routine traffic stop becomes a serious legal ordeal.

It’s important to note that if the officer spots drug paraphernalia in plain sight, not only are they allowed to search your car, they are even allowed to look in closed containers and under items.

If illegal drugs are found in your vehicle, you will likely be arrested. The charges you face will depend on the type of drugs found within your vehicle, how much drugs and paraphernalia were found during the search, and whether you were intoxicated. Charges you will likely face include:

  • DUI
  • Possession

It’s possible you could also be charged with the following:

  • Intent to sell
  • Drug trafficking
  • Manufacturing

In addition to being arrested and the potential consequences of a conviction, you also have to think about what will happen to your vehicle. The best-case scenario is that it will be towed and impounded. While this means you’ll have to pay the tow bill and the impound fees, you’ll at least have a vehicle. If the vehicle is used as evidence against you, there is no telling how much time will pass before you get it back.

If you use drugs, it’s in your best interest to keep them out of your vehicle and to only drive when you’re completely sober.