You’ve probably seen the scenario played out on your favorite crime television show. A police officer conducts a traffic stop, sees that the driver is behaving in a suspicious manner or smells a certain odor and before the driver knows it, he’s being removed from his vehicle and his body and car are being searched. So, what does it take for the police to be lawfully able to search your body, vehicle and possessions? More importantly, what should you do if you find yourself in a similar situation?
When can police search without a warrant?
The Fourth Amendment provides protection against illegitimate searches and seizures by law enforcement. This means that the police must have a warrant or your consent to search, unless certain factors exist.
So, when can law enforcement search your vehicle? Usually, under the following circumstances:
- You have given consent
- The officer has probable cause to think there is evidence of a crime inside your car (for example, he smells the odor of marijuana or sees contraband in plain view)
- The officer reasonably thinks a search is required for his or her own protection (a hidden weapon)
- You were arrested and the search is incident to that arrest
What should I do if the Police want to search?
If you find yourself in a situation where the police want to search YOU or YOUR VEHICLE, follow this advice:
- Do NOT consent to search! Politely decline the search of your body, vehicle and possessions. Even if the police threaten to call a drug dog.
- If the police ask you if you have any drugs on your person or in your car, REMAIN SILENT. Politely decline to answer any questions and exercise your right to remain silent. Anything you say CAN and WILL be used against you during the prosecution of your case.
- If the police search your vehicle without your consent and find contraband (drugs, weapons), do NOT make any admissions about ownership or knowledge of the contraband! Even if drugs were found in your car, that fact alone may not give the prosecution sufficient evidence for a possession conviction under Virginia law.
Are you facing drug charges? If you feel your car was searched and there was no probable cause for the police officer to conduct the search, you need the experienced legal representation of an attorney who can fight for your rights and your reputation. Your initial consultation in criminal cases is free, so call (757) 228-5529 or send us a message online today to schedule your confidential appointment.