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When can the police search my car?

It is a police officers’ responsibility to protect and serve their communities and ensure that the public is safe. Despite their duties, it does not mean that police have the right to search your car whenever they want or without a valid reason.

The fourth amendment protects citizens from police conducting random searches of your property, But it does allow some circumstances where police can search your vehicle. So, when do police have the right to search your vehicle without a warrant?

With consent

One of the simplest reasons the police have to search your vehicle is when you permit them to do so. If you do not want the police to search your vehicle, you do not have to grant them permission to search. Be sure that you choose your words carefully not to say something the police might consider permission to conduct a search.

The police arrested you

If the police arrested you during your traffic stop, they could proceed to search your vehicle for additional evidence that supports their arrest. For example, if the police arrest you for driving while under the influence, they may search your vehicle for open bottles of alcohol to help prove you were drinking while driving.

Objects in plain sight

Suppose the police can look through the windows of your vehicle and see something that might allow them to search your vehicles, such as drug paraphernalia or drugs, open bottles of alcohol, or illegal substances or paraphernalia. In that case, they do not need to collect a warrant or your permission to then search the vehicle.

Probable cause

If the police have sufficient reason to believe that you are involved in a crime, the police can search your vehicle. It is not enough for an officer to just have a suspicion of a possible crime; they need to have strong reasoning to support their decision to search your vehicle.

Emergency situations

If police officers are pursuing a fleeing criminal and believe that person is hiding in your vehicle, they can conduct a search. It is also possible for the police to conduct a search if they believe that criminal evidence will disappear before a judge can grant them a warrant, although this circumstance is extremely rare.

How do you respond to an illegal search?

If you believe the police are conducting an illegal search of your vehicle, do not interfere with that search. Interfering with police activity can result in officers charging you with obstruction of justice or other charges. Simply allow the police officers to finish their search and then call an attorney at your soonest availability.