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Can police search your car at any time?

If you're pulled over by police for any reason, you may have a big question on your mind: Does the officer have the legal right to search your vehicle?

Generally speaking, the Fourth Amendment protects you against unlawful search and seizure. For example, if police search your car without having a valid reason or without your consent, they are in violation of your rights.

Here are some of the circumstances in which an officer can search your vehicle:

  • If you have told them that it's okay to do so
  • If there is probable cause to believe that the vehicle holds some type of evidence of a crime
  • If the officers believe that searching your vehicle is essential to their safety and well-being
  • If the officer has a search warrant
  • If you have been placed under arrest and searching your vehicle is necessary, such as to search for illegal weapons or drugs

If an officer asks to search your vehicle, you have the legal right to politely decline if there is no search warrant. If the officer continues to search, even though you didn't give him or her permission, any evidence obtained cannot be used in court.

There is a lot of gray area in regards to when police can search your car. With this in mind, it's good to know your legal rights and how to deal with this situation should you find yourself facing trouble. If police search your car without your permission and it leads to an arrest, you'll want to keep this in mind as you formulate a defense strategy.

Source: FindLaw, "When Can the Police Search Your Car?," accessed Jan. 10, 2018

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