Most people know that police must sometimes obtain a search warrant before searching an individual’s property. However, many are unsure as to what their rights are regarding vehicle searches. They have questions such as, “Does a police officer need a search warrant to search my car in Illinois?” and “What happens if drugs, weapons, or other evidence is obtained during a vehicle search that was unlawful?” It is critical for Illinois residents to understand their rights when it comes to searches of their personal property. If evidence used against you in a criminal proceeding was acquired by police during an illegal search, it is possible that the evidence will be thrown out and unusable in court.
The Constitution Gives You the Right to be Free from Unreasonable Searches
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S Constitution guarantees citizens the right to be free from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” This means that government or law enforcement agents cannot simply search anyone’s property for any reason. In many situations, police must obtain a search warrant from a judge before they can enter someone’s property and search for evidence of criminal activity. The Fourth Amendment also requires the person seeking a search warrant to show “probable cause” to justify the search. Probable cause means that there is a logical belief that criminal activity has taken place or is taking place.
Police Do Not Need a Search Warrant to Search Your Car, Truck, or other Vehicle
Unlike searches of residences, police do not usually need to get a search warrant from a judge in order to search a person’s vehicle. The Supreme Court has ruled that a motor vehicle does not have the same legal privacy protections as a residence and therefore a search warrant is not needed to justify a vehicle search. However, this does not mean that there are no rules describing how and when police can search your vehicle. Generally, police can only search your car, truck, SUV, or other vehicle if one of the following circumstances is present:
• The vehicle search is being conducted after you were arrested;
• The police officer has reason to believe a vehicle search is necessary to protect his or her safety;
• The police officer has probable cause to believe that there is evidence of criminal activity in the vehicle; or
• You give police your consent or permission to search the vehicle.
Many criminal cases are dismissed after it is shown that police did not have probable cause or other justification to conduct a vehicle search. In some situations, an unlawfully conducted search can even result in the entire criminal case being dismissed.
Contact a Will County Illegal Search and Seizure Lawyer
If you are facing criminal charges after police searched your vehicle, speak with a Joliet criminal defense attorney to get the legal support you need to fight these charges. Schedule your free, confidential consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba by calling 815-740-4025 today.