When Can the Police Search Your Car?

can the police search your car

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, 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.” In practice, this means that the police and other law enforcement agencies typically need a warrant in order to search someone’s personal property. Motor vehicles, however, are often an exception.

Probable Cause

Cars, trucks, and other vehicles present interesting challenges in regard to the warrant requirement because they are mobile, and evidence can be easily lost if it is not seized right away. However, police are not permitted to search a vehicle for no reason. An officer must have probable cause in order to search a person’s car. Probable cause refers to evidence that leads officers to believe that the driver of the vehicle is involved in criminal activity. This could include an officer seeing illegal contraband in the vehicle or smelling drugs.

Other times, an officer does not have actual evidence that a person has been involved in criminal activity but they suspect that they might find evidence in the vehicle. The officer might outright ask if he or she can search someone’s car or they might imply that the driver does not have a choice by saying something such as “If you do not have anything to hide, there is no reason to refuse a search.” You do have the right to say “I do not consent to a search,” but that does not necessarily mean that your vehicle will not be searched.

If a police officer searches a car and finds illegal items despite the driver’s refusal, the evidence could potentially be suppressed in court. If a judge determines that a police officer violated the Fourth Amendment’s probable cause requirements and throws out the evidence that was seized, the prosecution may suddenly have a much weaker case. In some instances, the charges may be dismissed altogether.

A Joliet Criminal Defense Attorney Who Will Fight For Your Rights

If you are facing charges related to illegal items found in your vehicle, you need a knowledgeable Will County criminal defense attorney. The dedicated staff at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba know that often, the law can be nuanced and complex. They have the experience and skills necessary to help you understand your legal options and rights. Call 815-740-4025 and schedule a free consultation to discuss your case today.