When can the police search your vehicle?

| May 22, 2020 | Uncategorized

You’re probably aware that in most cases the police need permission to enter your home, either through someone at the home or via a search warrant. But what about searches of your vehicle? In general, search and seizure laws are less strict when it comes to automobiles.

Privacy expectations

Courts have found that people have less expectation of privacy in their cars than they do in their homes. This allows the police more leeway when it comes to searching a vehicle.

By design, automobiles must afford their driver’s a wide range of vision. However, this is a two-way street. It’s easy for police to see inside of a vehicle. If an officer views evidence of illegal activity, such as the presence of drug paraphernalia, this is probably enough to provide the police with probable cause to search your vehicle.

Police may also search your vehicle if:

  • You consent to a search
  • The officer believes a search is necessary to ensure officer and public safety
  • You’ve been placed under arrest and the search is related to the reason for your arrest

In addition, if the police decide to tow and impound your vehicle, they usually have the authority to search your vehicle. However, the police cannot impound your vehicle for the sole purpose of performing a search.

Do I have any rights?

It might seem like you have no rights when it come to police searches of your vehicle. While vehicle searches are afforded less protections than searches of homes, the Fourth Amendment still applies. You should discuss your traffic stop with a lawyer. You may be able to raise a strong defense against a vehicle search that leads to criminal charges.