When Is It Legal For The Police To Search My Car During A Traffic Stop?

Most traffic stops end with the police officer giving you a ticket, and you drive away and continue with your day. Unfortunately, a police officer may prolong the traffic stop by searching your vehicle. You may be wondering if the police officer has a right to search your vehicle if all you were doing was speeding. Here are situations where it would be legal for your car to be searched.

Searching A Car After An Arrest

When you are being stopped for a routine traffic violation, such as speeding or not stopping at a red light, there is no basis for the office to suspect that you have involvement in some sort of criminal activity. Based on the traffic violation alone, an officer cannot search your car.

However, some states can authorize a police officer to arrest a driver for an offense such as driving with a suspended license. When arrested, there are circumstances where searching your car may be legal. This includes if they believe you have a weapon hidden in the car, or possess illegal contraband.

If you are frisked outside of your car and the officer finds contraband, that will give them a reason to search your car as well.

Conducting A Search Based On Suspicion

An officer has a right to search your vehicle during a traffic stop if they have any suspicion to do so. This includes seeing, hearing, or smelling anything suspicious. This may seem like an all-encompassing reason to allow an office to search your car, but the key factor is that your actions are what give an officer suspicion.

During a routine traffic stop, you should follow the proper traffic stop procedures of turning your car off and placing your hands on your steering wheel in plain sight. Do not make any sudden movements while the officer is at your car, and turn on the car's internal lights so the office can see that you are not a threat.

Never talk back to the police officer, and never complain or argue about the ticket. If you want to challenge the ticket, you should do all of your arguing in court.

Consenting To A Search                            

An officer has the right to request a search of your car and are allowed to do so if you give them consent. Of course, you have the right to refuse the search. You should verbally tell them in a non-intimidating tone that you do not consent to the search, and do not touch the officer in any way to stop them.

If you feel like you have had your car searched illegally, work with a criminal attorney to help defend you in court. If evidence found in the car was obtained illegally by the officer, it could be thrown out if you can prove that the officer acted outside his or her authority.  

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Fascinating Legal Problems

There’s a reason why there are so many legal procedural shows on television these days. The law can be an intriguing thing. Going to court isn’t usually something that you look forward to, but having the court system available is definitely a positive thing. You never know when you may need to use it for one reason or another. I’ve found, as a legal professor, that taking a look at interesting cases in different areas of the law is the best way to help my students understand their subject. I’m hoping this blog will give you an idea of how the court system can work for you by giving you at glimpse at some fascinating cases and the laws behind them.