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When can cops search my car?

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2022 | Search & Seizure

lights on police car

Getting stopped by police can be terrifying. While you may know why they pulled you over, you may worry about what will happen during a traffic stop.

There are certain circumstances when police can conduct an investigation that includes searching a vehicle. However, if they do not follow the rules, any evidence they find may not be admissible in court.

Here’s what you should know about when police can search your vehicle.

You can say no

Officers can get around the rules for searching a vehicle by getting you to agree to the search. People are usually intimidated and nervous about being pulled over and agree to a request to search the car because they think they cannot say “no.”

It is essential to remember that you do not have to allow officers to search your vehicle simply because they asked. You can politely decline, and the officer will need another method to perform a legal search.

Are warrants the only option?

While courts recognize a lower expectation of privacy for a vehicle than a home, there are specific guidelines an officer must follow if they feel the need to perform a search. In many cases, officers will need to get a search warrant from a judge.

However, there are some circumstances where an officer with probable cause can search your vehicle, such as:

  • Needing to search the car for their own protection for concealed weapons
  • Following your arrest and the search is related to the arrest
  • Believing that your vehicle contains evidence of a crime
  • Conducting an inventory search after impounding the vehicle

These rules for vehicle searches can be critical to the case that follows. When an officer conducts an unreasonable search, the evidence is typically inadmissible.

Criminal charges can be complex and have a devastating impact on your life. It is critical to speak to a criminal defense lawyer about your case.

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