Should you let Police Search Your Car?
If you are pulled over for having a headlight out, do the police have the right to search your car? The Constitution declares Americans are protected from illegal search and seizures, yet over a million vehicles are searched each year during routine traffic stops. There is minimal reason to do so and there is no search warrant. So why does this happen so often? Because the majority of drivers are intimidated enough by police that they will always give permission when the officer requests to search the vehicle.
Help on Vehicle Search By Police
When Can Police Legally Search the Vehicle?
There are times when police can justify searching your vehicle without your consent or a warrant. One such circumstance is when the officer can see something illegal in your car that is clearly visible; this is the “plain view” rule. If that is the case, the officer does not need a warrant to search the vehicle.
Another time the police can search your car without permission or a warrant is if they have probable cause. If, for instance, an officer pulled over a car for speeding and smelled marijuana when he approached the vehicle, he would have probable cause to conduct a search. Probable cause doesn’t even have to be obvious. If the officer feels there is something suspicious about your behavior or the vehicle, he can legally search the car.
If you are being arrested for any reason, whether for DUI, driving while suspended or other cause, you have no choice but to let the officer search your car.
How to Avoid a Vehicle Search!
Can You Refuse to have your Car Searched?
If you have been pulled over in a traffic stop but none of the above circumstances applies, you have every right to refuse an officer’s request to search your vehicle. Even if you are confident there is nothing illegal to be found, you do not need to allow a search. When the officer asks permission, politely refuse his request. Remain calm, do not touch the officer in anyway, but state that you will not give consent for your vehicle or your person to be searched. It is your right to do so.
However, be aware that the officer doesn’t have to just let you drive away. He is now suspicious that you are trying to conceal something. If the officer decides she has reason to search the car despite your lack of permission, allow her to do so. While the search is underway, however, state, “I did not give you permission to search my vehicle”, clearly and calmly several times. If anything is being recorded, you will officially be on record as having refused the search request.
Another option the officer has is to hold you there until a search warrant can be delivered. This can be quite time consuming and when the warrant does arrive, chances are you vehicle will be searched extensively. If you are e confident you have nothing to hide and do not want to be delayed for an indeterminate amount of time, it may be simpler just to let the officer take a quick look. The choice is up to you.