When Can Police Search Your Car?
Being pulled over by a police officer is a nerve-wracking experience. Because of this, many people make the mistake of consenting to a police search of their car. Criminal defense attorneys routinely advise clients that they should never allow an officer to search their car.
Reasons Why People Consent to Officer Searches of Cars
People have many misconceptions about what the consequences of a car search entail. They may think one or more of the following:
- I’ve got nothing to hide. I should let the search happen;
- Maybe the officer will not find the drugs or weapons I have hidden; and
- The officer will just search my car anyway. If I consent, maybe the officer will go easy on me.
All of these statements are false or bad advice. If an officer is asking for your consent, that means that your consent is needed to search the car.
There are situations where an officer does not need probable cause to conduct a search, and these situations are discussed below. If one of the situations is present and the officer does not need probable cause, he will search your vehicle without getting your permission.
The Fourth Amendment Gives Citizens Protections
The Fourth Amendment states that police cannot conduct a search without a warrant issued by a judge after the judge has been presented with information that rises to the level of probable cause.
However, the law does make many exceptions to this rule, and one exception is the automobile exception. In order to search a car, officers need probable cause that the car contains contraband or evidence of a crime.
For example, if an officer sees a gun sticking out from under a floor mat and knows that you are a felon because he ran your I.D., that would be enough for probable cause.
There are several circumstances where probable cause or consent are not needed to conduct a search. These circumstances include:
- Officer safety. If the officer has reason to believe that there are weapons in the car, he can search it for weapons;
- Search at the time of the arrest; and
- Inventory search. If you are arrested and your car is impounded, your car will be thoroughly searched and the contents will be inventoried by officers.
Contact a Fairfield County Criminal Law Attorney
When you hire a criminal defense attorney, you will have your case examined carefully to determine if officers were acting constitutionally in every step of their investigation and arrest. If an officer has violated the U.S. and Connecticut constitutions, it may be possible to have your case dismissed under a legal theory called “fruit of the poisonous tree.” If you need to discuss your criminal charges with a Fairfield County, CT criminal defense lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Daniel P. Weiner today at 203-348-5846 for an initial evaluation.