You have protections under the Fourth Amendment against unlawful search and seizure. But, how does that actually apply to you? If police officers search a vehicle without a warrant or without your permission, then they could be violating your Fourth Amendment rights.
But, the courts do give police a lot more freedoms to search vehicles than a person’s home. This is because vehicles are part of the “automobile exception” because people have less expectations of privacy with their vehicles.
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When Can Police Search My Vehicle Without a Warrant?
A police officer does not always need a warrant to search your vehicle. The Supreme Court has already ruled that police can search a vehicle warrantless under specific circumstances, and anything they find can be used against you in court.
These warrantless situations include, but are not limited to:
- You give the police consent to search the vehicle.
- The police officer has probable cause to search the vehicle and they believe that there is evidence to a crime in your car.
- A police officer feels that a search of your vehicle is not only necessary, but a matter of safety for the police.
- You have been arrested already and the search is related to your arrest. For example, you were arrested for drugs; therefore, the police are going to search your vehicle for any evidence of drugs.
If a police officer stops your vehicle for a violation or traffic violation, then they may have a right to search your vehicle. But, minor traffic violations do not qualify.
So, a police officer could not search your vehicle just because you were slightly speeding or you ran a stop sign. But, if you appear drunk, or the officer smells marijuana on you, then they may have probable cause to perform a warrantless search.
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Police Can Search Impounded Vehicles
If the police end up towing and impounding your vehicle, then they have the right to search that vehicle. This means they could go through every locked area or compartment in your car while it is in their impound lot.
It doesn’t matter why the police towed or impounded your vehicle either. If you just had your vehicle towed for a parking violation and they search it and find drugs, you could be arrested.
But, police cannot just tow and impound a car to search it. They have to have a good reason for towing it in the first place.
Arrested for Something Found in Your Car? Contact a Criminal Attorney Right Away
Were you arrested because of something the police found in your car? Do you feel your Fourth Amendment rights were violated because of a warrant less vehicle search? Click here to contact the Law Office of Paul J. Donnelly, P.A. today.
We offer no obligation consultations and would love to discuss your case with you now.