The Fourth Amendment
So, were her rights violated? Well, the Fourth Amendment states that "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...but upon probable cause." The Fourth Amendment is like the Eighth, in that the language used is very ambiguous. After all, what is "unreasonable" or "cruel and unusual"? The courts have determined that "unreasonable," as applied to a car search following a routine traffic stop, is limited to searched of things "in plain view" and only if the officers have "reasonable probable cause." "In plan view" has since been modified to include the entire car, including the trunk, but no opaque containers contained in the car. Of course, none of this applies if the owner of the car has given consent to the search, which is appears that, at least from a legal standpoint, that my friend did. She said "okay" after the officer told her that he needed to search her car. The officer also appears to have his probable cause locked in, albeit a relatively flimsy one; I'm not sure how kindly the courts would take to an officer searching someone because she was acting "suspicious," but then be unable to back that up with any hard evidence.
Of course, this is all really beside the point. After all, even if my friend files a complaint or even takes the BPD to court, what's the best that could happen? The officer is reprimanded, and maybe the BPD has to pay her some money; even this result is unlikely because after all, as far as anyone is concerned she is just a trouble-making teenager. Which raises the question of profiling. We hear a lot about stopped for driving while black; we don't hear as much for being stopped for driving while teenager. I'm willing to submit that this is because most teenagers are pulled over for a legitimate reason: speeding, or some other sort of traffic violation. However, after this initial offense, the officers take things too far and conduct a borderline illegal search of the teenager's car. What teenager is going to stand up for their constitutional rights and cause a problem for the police? I would, but I'm pretty sure that I am the exception to the rule. Besides, we're just teenagers, and we all know all teenagers are just waiting for the opportunity to become a druggie; we have to stop them before it happens. The BPD evidently believes this; every traffic stop in Bellevue that I've seen in the past 2-3 weeks involving a teenager seems to have resulted in a full blown car search.
Then there is the even larger issue: should the police have a right to search our cars after a routine traffic stop? I submit that they should, with severe limitations. After all, as citizens we have entered into a contract with the government: we agree to give the government certain powers to improve life for everyone (a military, foreign relations, municipal services, infrastructure, etc.); in exchange, the government agrees (in theory) to butt out of our lives. I believe that the only time our cars should be searched during a routine traffic stop is if there is hard physical evidence of a crime: the car and/or occupants match the description from a prior crime, the car smells of fresh marijuana smoke, the occupants appear to be intoxicated and/or smell of alcohol, etc. Outside of this, there should be no searches. "She was acting really suspicious" should be not a legitimate cause for searches. I find it disgraceful that officers who have sworn to uphold and protect the law are engaging in such activity.