A traffic stop has the potential to drastically threaten your rights, future, and freedom if police begin searching your vehicle on a whim. Thanks to the fourth amendment, the police do not have the right to enter any vehicle or home to search at their discretion. It is possible under certain situations for the police to legally search your vehicle, so what are they?
Examples of probable cause
Before the police can let their way into your car and start searching the vehicle, they need to have sufficient probable cause. Probable cause does not mean that the police need undeniable proof of a crime, but they cannot proceed in a search on just suspicion. Examples of probable cause include:
- Criminal paraphernalia in plain sight – if the police spot drugs, alcohol, paraphernalia, or weapons through the windows of the vehicle
- Need to protect public safety – if the police are searching for an escaped convict or a fleeing suspect
- Consent – if the police ask the property owner for and gain permission to search their home of vehicle
- Arrest – if the police arrest the driver or someone in the vehicle, they may search the vehicle
If the police search your vehicle, pay attention to see if they provide any reason of probable cause for the search. Remember that you do not need to consent to a police search under any circumstances.
If the police act without probably cause
If you suspect that the police are conducting an illegal search of your vehicle, do not say anything or interfere with the search. Interfering with a search may only result in additional charges against you. A judge may dismiss any evidence found in an illegal search, and you can contact an attorney to hold the police accountable at a later time.