Can I Be Searched During a Routine Traffic Stop?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jun 13, 2015 | 0 Comments

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.

Reasonable Suspicion

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.

Search Warrant

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.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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