Is a Police Officer Allowed to Search My Vehicle?
For many of us, the main times we interact with the police is during traffic stops. Most people who have been diving for a few years have been pulled over at least once by police. Often, those who have committed a minor traffic violation, such as driving slightly faster than the speed limit, will only receive a warning. Other times, police will issue a ticket. After asking for the driver’s license, registration, and possibly proof of insurance, police will be watching you and your vehicle closely. The officer may ask if he can take a look around your vehicle. It is important for Illinois residents to know and exercise their rights when it comes to the police searching a vehicle.
Do Not Consent to a Search
Many experts encourage anyone stopped by police for any reason to be respectful and non-threatening. We live in a time where tensions between police and the general public are at an all-time-high and officers are therefore on the lookout for those who might try to hurt them. If you get pulled over by the police, it is recommended that you keep calm and follow the officer’s commands or requests. However, do not be tricked into believing that you must agree to a search if a police officer wants to search your car. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from “unreasonable searches or seizures.” In the case of motor vehicles, the officer must have “probable cause” to suspect you are doing something illegal to search your car. Having drugs or other illegal items in plain sight as well as the smell of marijuana seeping out of your car are both situations which would permit a police officer to search your vehicle. If you are arrested, the police automatically have the right to search your vehicle.
Confusing or Intimidating Language
Police officers will sometimes “ask” to search a vehicle even though it does not sound like they are asking. Phrases like “You do not mind if I take a look around, do you?” or “I know you do not care if I search the vehicle since you have nothing to hide,” are designed to trip motorists up and make them think they cannot say “no.” However, you always have the right to politely deny a search of your vehicle—and you should. Of course, it is possible the officer will conduct the search anyway under the legal umbrella of “probable cause,” but motorists should always make it clear that they do not consent to a search.
If an officer searches your vehicle without your consent, his or her reasons for doing so—and any criminal charges which result from the search—can be questioned in court. There are many instances where a judge throws out a case because the police officer who searched the person’s car did not have adequate probable cause to do so. Consenting to a search means that you give up your right to challenge the constitutionality or validity of a search in the future.
Are You Facing Criminal Charges Due to Evidence Found in Your Vehicle?
If you have been arrested and charged due to police searching your car, you should know that a qualified Will County criminal defense attorney can help you create an effective defense strategy. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule a free, confidential consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.