When Can Police Search Your Car?
If you are pulled over in a routine traffic stop, and a police officer wants to search your vehicle, what do you do?
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects against unlawful search and seizure, which means that a police officer cannot start searching your car for no reason. But, there are many ways that an officer can search your vehicle:
- If you give the officer permission to search.
You always have the right to say that you do not consent to a search. You can politely and firmly say “no.” If the officer searches your car and you have not consented, anything he or she finds might not be useful as evidence in court.
- If there is something illegal in plain view.
An officer must have reason to believe that some sort that a crime has been committed in your car. If the officer can see an open container of alcohol or some other illegal material, he or she can search your car without your consent.
- The officer has a reason to believe that a search is necessary for his safety.
If the officer believes you may have a hidden weapon, he may search to protect him or herself.
- The officer has a search warrant or can demonstrate probable cause.
A warrant is permission from a judge to search private property. Probable cause is, for example, when an officer smells, hears or sees something in the car that indicates a crime may have been committed.
- You have been arrested and the police decide to impound your vehicle.
Before your vehicle is impounded, a police officer may do an inventory search, noting what was in your car. This is presumably so you will get your vehicle back with your stuff in it. But, if something illegal is found in the car, there is a chance it could be used as evidence against you.
Have Questions About When Can Police Search Your Car? Call Ashley Schiavone
Vehicle searches are a tricky subject – if you believe you can have been the victim of an illegal police search, contact Schiavone Law for help. Ashley Schiavone is a DUI Lawyer practicing in Gwinnett and Fulton counties.