Q: I was pulled over for out registration and police call tow truck driver for a tow. Police officer said he would take inventory of car so I could grab what I need but never did because he also was responding to a disable tractor trailer. I asked him to grab my girlfriend’s wallet. The cop goes into car lifts the center console and grabs it but I never got it. Tow truck pulls up. Tow driver was about to load car then. He opens driver side door reaches in. Then flags down officer and walks him over to say that there was a bag of marijuana on the floor. I am getting charged. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: You have a Fourth Amendment right against illegal searches. However, here it sounds like a tow truck driver alleges to have found the marijuana while performing his job and in in plain view. If the tow truck driver had a legitimate reason to be in the car and the marijuana is in plain view, you will have no Fourth Amendment protection. If that is what the tow truck driver will testify to, you may have a problem. The marijuana belongs to either you, your girlfriend or was planted by the cop or tow truck driver. The latter two are unlikely and hard to prove. The tow truck driver is a necessary witness. If you want to fight this, I would hire a lawyer for the preliminary hearing to make sure the tow truck driver appears and to cross examine him on the details. If this is a small amount of marijuana and you have no record, you may be able to get out of this with no conviction with the guidance of a good attorney.