Police officers do not have an automatic right to search your car whenever they want.
You do not have to agree to an officer’s request to search your car.
If asked, you should tell the officer he does not have your permission to search your car. Most people don’t realize they have the right to refuse to agree to an officer’s request to search their car.
Police will sometimes ask to search in a manner that sounds more like a command. Do not be intimidated by this. You do not have to agree to a search of your car. By no means should you physically prevent the officer from searching as this can get you tossed in jail in a hurry.
You can just tell the officer you do not want him to search your car.
If you say no, the officer can only search your car if he has one of the following two other reasons.
First, police can search your car if they have a valid search warrant. Having a warrant to search your car is rare at best on a routine traffic stop. It almost never happens.
Second, the police can search if they have probable cause. Probable cause is something to suggest that you are involved in some illegal activity. It’s more than mere suspicion.
An example of probable cause is when the officer sees something illegal in your car. For example a bag of white powder that looks like cocaine, or the smell of burnt marijuana. Either of these can lead to a valid search.
Police will almost always ask to search your car if they suspect something is up but can’t put a finger on it. Suspicion is not enough for a legal search.
You do not have to explain to the police why you don’t want them to search. Actually, it’s the exact opposite. The officer must give you a reason for the search. And chances are, if he asks, he does not have a reason to search.
Once you give your permission, however, the search becomes legal. The police don’t need a warrant or probable cause if you them give permission to search your car. By agreeing to the search, you give up valuable constitutional rights. Many cases are thrown out of court because officers illegally searched a car.
You should never consent or agree to an officer’s request to search your car.
Contact the Law office of Andrew Williams for more detailed information.