by: Stephen Sebald
If the police have ever stopped you, you may have been asked to consent to a search of your vehicle. Whether or not they can actually lawfully search your car depends on a few things. First, if you have been pulled over for a traffic violation, it is likely that searching your car is not justified. If however, the police officer finds reason to arrest you, they may be able to search the vehicle for any potential weapons within the reach that may be used to resist arrest. The officer may have a reason to search the car at the time of the lawful arrest if it is conducted near the time and place of the arrest. The search can also occur much later after the vehicle has been relocated to the police station or an impound lot.
Unlike other searches and seizures, the police do not always need a warrant to search a car. They only need probable cause that there is evidence of a crime within it. This is a little different from a traffic stop, but it can be relevant if you have been investigated for another offense. It may seem necessary for the police to search your vehicle in order to obtain any potential evidence of a transgression that you may be charged with. In this case, it is only necessary for the police to prove that the car they are searching was capable of being driven.
When searching a vehicle, the police are able to look in all closed and locked areas, including any bags or containers that may be removable. Though the reason for the search may be connected only to the crime of which they are investigating, no rational relationship is required for what they may find. For example, if you are being investigated for an armed burglary and the police find drugs while searching your vehicle, they can then charge you for those drugs even though it does not have any relationship to the armed burglary.
If your car is in an impound lot, it may be searched to take inventory of the contents, which does not even require you to be investigated for a crime. The contents search is usually just to document what is in the vehicle at the time it enters the lot and can result in charging the owner will an offense for possession of something illegal.
Giving consent to an officer to search your car is divided into expressed and implied. Expressed consent means that you gave permission to the officer to conduct the search. Implied consent can come into play when you are suspected of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The implied consent virtually says that because you are driving while intoxicated, you have given consent to a search.
There can be many times when an officer can confuse or trick you into consenting to a search. Maybe you misunderstood your rights in the process. If you experienced a search that you do not feel comfortable about, it may be that the search was not entirely lawful. Contact us today at Sebald, Hackwelder, & Knox to help you figure out whether your rights were violated. Phone (814) 833-1987