If you are stopped by police for a common traffic offense like speeding, a police officer may not search your car. There are several ways, however, where a search of a motor vehicle can legally be conducted:
If you are stopped by police and the officer suspects that you may have something to hide, he can ask for your consent to search your vehicle. At this point, you actually have a 5th amendment right to remain silent if you choose to. If you do consent, the officer can search the entire car.
If the police have a probable cause to believe that you are carrying some type of illegal contraband (open container, alcohol, drugs, firearms), depending on the jurisdiction your car may be searched including a locked glove compartment or trunk. This type of warrantless search of a vehicle has been upheld as an exception to the 4th amendment rule against unlawful search and seizures. It is important to note that probable cause must be something more than a feeling or a hunch. There must be tangible evidence such as a smell, a sound, or something visual.
Police can detain you and wait for another officer to bring a search warrant. With a warrant, police are able to thoroughly search your vehicle.
Search Incident to a Lawful Arrest
If you are arrested, the police can search you, and your immediate area.
If you have been cited for a criminal offense, contact our office for guidance. There are often legal issues involved in the search and arrest process. Come in and discuss the facts of your case with us, as there is likely applicable defenses available to you. Contact us today to ensure your legal rights are protected.