What is Considered an Unlawful Vehicle Search by Police?

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In the United States, certain limitations are placed on how and when police can search a person’s private property. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that citizens have the right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” and that no search warrants should be issued “but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” If evidence used against you in a criminal proceeding was obtained via an unlawful search, the evidence, or entire case, may be dismissed.

Police Can Search Your Car if You Give Them Consent

There are several ways that police have the authority to search an individual’s personal property. One of these is if the owner of the property gives the police consent or permission. For example, if you are pulled over for a traffic infraction and the police ask if they can search your vehicle and you say yes, this is a lawful search. Police may ask in a roundabout way to search your vehicle, saying something like, “You do not mind if I take a look around, do you?” Consenting to vehicle searches automatically makes them legal in the eyes of the law. Citizens do have the right to refuse an officer’s request to search their vehicle, but saying no will not necessarily stop the search from occurring.

Police Can Search Your Car if They Have Probable Cause

Even if you say no to a search, police may still search your vehicle if they have probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime is in the vehicle. Police can also search the car if the driver has been arrested. It is important to note that a minor traffic violation such as speeding is not considered probable cause for a search. If the officers pull you over for a minor traffic infraction but then finds probable cause to suspect illegal items or evidence is in your vehicle, they may legally conduct a search. For example, if you are pulled over for running a red light but officers smell marijuana in your vehicle, they have probable cause to search.

Contact a Joliet Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges or believe you were victim to an unlawful search, speak with an experienced Distracted driving Will County criminal defense lawyer from the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba. Contact us at 815-740-4025 today.