This is commonly debated question for many different people. For those not as readily familiar with the constitution or the amendments, this issue in particular falls under the purview of the fourth amendment. The fourth amendment as stated is:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
But does this necessarily apply when you’re in your car? The problem is that probable cause and illegal search and seizure tend to fall into a gray area. To make matters more complicated, the laws for when your car can be searched without a warrant can vary from state to state.
Photo Taken By: Julius Schorzman
When Can My Car Legally be Searched?
There are a few set standards that are accepted when it comes to the police being allowed to search your vehicle without a warrant.
- When you have given the officer consent to the search.
- If the officer has probable cause to believe that there is evidence of a crime in your vehicle
- If the officer reasonably believes a search is necessary for the sake of their own safety. In the case of hidden weapons, for example.
- If you have been arrested and a search is relevant to the arrest. Such as searching for illegal drugs.
Under any of these guidelines, it is acceptable for an officer to search your vehicle, without a warrant. It’s also acceptable for your car to be searched without your consent if it’s impounded. While the police cannot impound your car for the sake of searching, your car can be impounded for other reasons, such as parking tickets, which then makes it subject to search without a warrant.
What do I do If I get Pulled Over?
If you are pulled over, it’s important to be prepared and polite. By pulling your car over quickly, and safely, having your interior lights and hazard lights on, turning the engine and the radio off, and having your window down not only help things go smoothly, but suggest that you’re willing to cooperate. Overall, the most important thing is to remain calm and respectful. While it’s not likely that your car can be searched because you were pulled over for speeding, unruly conduct that leads to you being arrested usually means that your car can be searched, even though probable cause wasn’t present when you were pulled over.
It’s important to remember that you have the right to refuse a search. However, it’s is above all important to remain calm and respectful. You can state your right to refuse, however it is important to never physically resist as this can cause more legal trouble, up to and including felony charges for assault. It’s common practice to ask you if they can search. While it might sound like a command, it is still a request. By answering in the affirmative, you have given the officer consent to search your vehicle without a warrant. However, by remaining calm, and declining their request with due respect, you’re able to keep your car from being searched as well as preventing other legal issues.
+Andrew is one of the leading DUI and criminal defense attorneys in both the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia. He writes about legal issues on his Maryland DUI law blog, has numerous videos on the subject and has been asked to appear on national television to offer his legal opinion on high-profile criminal cases.