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What Should You Do If an Officer Wants to Search Your Car?

November 23, 2018

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides for the protection of a person against unlawful searches and seizures. This means that, unless a police officer has a legally acceptable basis for searching your car, you have the right to refuse the search. Here’s what you should know if this happens to you.

If an Officer Has a Warrant

Most searches of motor vehicles involve probable cause, not warrants. But if a police officer does present you with a warrant, you do not have the right to refuse the search. You should read the warrant carefully to make sure that it specifies that your car is to be searched. You should also exercise your right to remain silent and to call a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Even if you aren’t charged with a crime yet, a warrant that permits the search of your car indicates you’re under investigation, and you’ll need legal guidance.

If an Officer Has Probable Cause

Officers can search your car without a warrant if they have probable cause that you have been involved in criminal activity. An officer can’t conduct the search based solely on his or her hunch that you’ve committed a crime—there must be a factual basis. For example, an officer would have probable cause if there is drug paraphernalia lying in plain view on the passenger seat.

If an Officer Searches Your Car Without Consent

If an officer orders you to exit your vehicle, you should comply in a respectful manner. Calmly and respectfully, inform the officer that you do not consent to the search of your vehicle. Then, remain silent while the officer searches your car. As soon as possible, call a criminal defense attorney and inform him or her that you’ve been subjected to an unlawful search and seizure.

If you believe your rights have been violated or you’ve been charged with a crime, contact the criminal defense law office of Janet Altschuler right away. You can reach us in Tucson at (520) 247-1789.