You get pulled over, do you know what your rights are? Traffic stops can cause a lot of stress and confusion if you don’t know what your rights are. There are lots of different situations where different rights apply, but for the sake of this blog, we’re going to focus on when the police have the right to search your car.
- They have a warrant– If it’s just a routine traffic stop, odds are they won’t have a warrant waiting in their car with your name on it, but stranger things have happened. So for the sake of clarity, if the police have a warrant to search your car, you can’t stop them.
- Plain view– This applies when you have some illegal item in plain view where the officer can clearly see it without searching. For instance, if you have a large bag of pot riding shotgun in your passenger sheet, the cops will most likely have the right to search your car.
- Consent– This is kind of obvious, but if the cops ask for your permission to search the car and you agree, they can do the search.
- Arrest– Police are allowed to search your car if they arrest you with probable cause.
- Exigent Circumstances– This means that police can search your car without a warrant if they believe evidence will be destroyed before they can get a warrant.
- Probable Cause– This term brings up a little bit of grey area, and probable cause is frequently debated. Typically, probable cause refers to the police seeing things that aren’t inherently illegal but suggest something illegal happened. For example, it’s not illegal to have a ski mask, a gun, and a big bag of cash in your car, but it does look mighty suspicious.
All Americans are protected from illegal searches by the Fourth Amendment, but that doesn’t mean illegal searches don’t happen. Make sure you know your rights and do your best to protect them so they can protect you. If you need legal help to fight an illegal search contact Huppertz & Powers.