During traffic stops, the general rule is that police need a warrant to search your property and you have a right to tell them no if they ask to search your vehicle. In other words, if an officer asks you “Do you mind if I search your vehicle?”, you can clearly let the officer know that you are not consenting to a search of your vehicle.
However, during a traffic stop, it is important to remember police may still proceed to search your vehicle without your consent based on a variety of other reasons. For example, the officer may be able to search your vehicle if he or she believes a search is necessary for protection purposes or you have been arrested and the search is related to that arrest.
The most common scenario for a search of your vehicle without a warrant is when an officer believes there is probable cause to do so. Probable cause is based on a variety of factors, but it basically means that the police must have some evidence or facts to believe you are (or have been) involved in criminal activity.
Common Examples Of What An Officer May Use For Probable Cause To Search A Vehicle
· The police can smell the distinct odor of marijuana or other contraband or alcohol
· The police can see in plain view the presence of contraband, drug paraphernalia or alcohol
· The driver or passenger admits to committing a crime
· Your vehicle fits the description of the getaway vehicle used in an armed robbery
· The facts or circumstances warrant police bringing a drug dog to perform a search
· A combination of factors-ex: bloodshot eyes, nervous behavior, odor of alcohol, etc.-could amount to probable cause
You Need Legal Advice From Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys
As you can see, the law surrounding traffic stops is complicated because there are many scenarios where you may have an unlawful search and seizure defense. When police search your vehicle it is a serious matter. It is crucial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney review your case and build the best possible defense on your behalf. An inexperienced criminal defense attorney may miss important issues that could get your evidence suppressed and win your case. At Young & Young, Attorneys at Law, you will be defended by a former judge and two former criminal prosecutors that have successfully handled thousands of criminal cases. Call us today for a free consultation.