The United States Constitution protects some of our most sacred rights. Among these rights is the right to a reasonable degree of privacy. Government authorities such as police officers cannot enter your property or seize your assets without unless certain criteria are satisfied.
For houses, apartments, or other dwellings, police usually need a search warrant from a judge before conducting a search. However, motor vehicles are exempt from the search warrant requirement. It is important for everyone to know their rights regarding vehicle searches. When a police search is performed illegally, the evidence collected during the search may be inadmissible in court.
When Police Officers May Search Your Car
Police can search a vehicle for drugs, weapons, or illicit items under a few different circumstances. However, if police conduct a search without appropriate justification, anything they uncover during the search may be dismissed under the exclusionary rule.
Law enforcement officers may search your car, truck, van, SUV, or other motor vehicle under the following circumstances:
- Police have a search warrant. – If you are suspected of criminal activity, police may be able to secure a search warrant to search your vehicle. Police will need to demonstrate to a judge that there is “probable cause” or specific indicators of criminal activity to get a search warrant.
- You give permission. – Police may search your vehicle without a warrant if you give them permission to do so. Police officers often phrase a search request casually. They say something like, “You do not mind if we take a look around, do you?” They may even imply that only a guilty person would deny police access to their vehicle. However, it is your right to refuse a search of your personal property and it is almost always in your best interest to say “no” to such a request.
- You were arrested. – If you are arrested for a criminal offense, the police may search the driver and passenger areas.
- There is probable cause for the search. – If police justifiably believe there are illegal items in your vehicle or evidence of a crime, they may be able to search your car. However, they must have a valid reason for the search.
- Evidence is in plain view. – If police can see illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia, or other evidence through the windows, they may conduct a search.
- The search needed for police protection. – The police may search your vehicle if there is a reasonable belief that the search is needed for the officer’s protection. For example, if police believe you are hiding a weapon that you intend to use on them, this may be considered justification for a vehicle search.
Contact Our Elgin Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you were arrested and charged with a crime because of items that were discovered in your vehicle, contact The Law Office of Brian J. Mirandola. Aurora criminal defense attorney Brian J. Mirandola can help you determine if the search was lawful. Call 847-488-0889 for a free consultation.