When Can Police Search Your Car?

Posted on in Criminal Law

Arlington Heights, IL defense attorney

There are a number of things that can cause a police officer to pull you over. Maybe your tail light was out, you did not use your turn signal, or you ran a red light. A police officer will likely pull you over for such violations. In some situations, an officer may request to search your vehicle. While the aforementioned violations could constitute a legal traffic stop, is it legal if the officer requests to search your vehicle? Technically, there are certain circumstances in which a police officer can search your vehicle without a warrant.

Police Searches of Vehicles

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states U.S. citizens have the right to “be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” This means police cannot search your property for no reason. There are only a handful of situations in which a police officer can legally search your car without a search warrant.

You Consent to the Search: Police may try to gain your consent to search your vehicle. If you verbally agree to a vehicle search, you have effectively waived your Fourth Amendment rights.

Something Illegal is in Plain View: Plain view simply means the officer must be able to see the evidence without actually searching for it. For example, if a police officer pulls you over and he or she notices a bag of marijuana on the passenger seat, the officer can enter your vehicle to retrieve the marijuana.

You Were Placed Under Arrest: If an officer has gained enough evidence to perform an arrest, he or she can then search your vehicle. This is called a “search incident to a lawful arrest,” and can be performed because your vehicle was involved in the crime you were arrested for.

Police Have Probable Cause to Believe a Crime has Taken Place: Often, probable cause is gained through a variety of actions and observations. For example, an officer may be legally permitted to search your vehicle if he or she gathered from the conversation that you had smoked marijuana earlier and/or the officer can smell marijuana coming from your vehicle.

Contact an Arlington Heights, IL Criminal Defense Attorney

Whether you have been pulled over unlawfully or you believe that police conducted an illegal search of your vehicle, Scott F. Anderson, Attorney at Law can help. There are certain procedures that must be followed by law enforcement when they conduct a traffic stop. If you were charged with a crime as a result of an improper traffic stop or an illegal vehicle search, you may be able to have your charges dismissed. Contact our knowledgeable Rolling Meadows, IL criminal defense lawyer today at 847-253-3400  to discuss your options.