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Can the Police Search My Car Anytime They Want?

Posted on in Vehicle Searches

Can the Police Search My Car Anytime They Want?In recent years, there has been a great deal of public debate about the power and authority given to police officers in various situations. Among these concerns is the issue of conducting a search for illicit drugs, unlawful weapons, or other illegal items. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution promises American citizens the right to be free from “unreasonable searches and seizures” of their homes, papers, effects, and persons. The same amendment also specifies that all warrants must be based on probable cause and must describe in detail “the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.” If you are facing charges based on evidence found during an illegal or unreasonable search, an experienced criminal defense attorney could get the case against you dismissed.

Consent Trumps Everything Else

Most people will never have the police come to their house wanting to conduct a search. It is much more common, however, for such a situation to develop during a traffic stop. If you have been stopped by the police and the officer wants to search your vehicle, he or she will almost certainly start by asking for your permission. If the officer obtains your clear consent, the search becomes lawful, and you will no longer have the option of challenging the evidence based on an unreasonable search.

Keep in mind that the officer might not use the word “search” or even ask for your consent in a clear manner. He or she might say something to the effect of, “I’m sure you don’t mind if I take a quick look around, right?” As a citizen, you always have the right to refuse to consent when an officer asks to search your car. Refusing will not always prevent the search, but you will retain the ability to challenge the validity of the search later.

Understanding Probable Cause

If you decline to consent to the search, the officer is still allowed to search your car if he or she has probable cause to believe that there is evidence of criminal activity in your vehicle. Your vehicle is also subject to being searched if you or any of your passengers are arrested on any charge.

In general, a minor traffic offense such as running a red light, while illegal, is not probable cause on which a lawful search can be based. However, probable cause can develop during the stop that gives the officer a reason to believe that evidence of a crime or illegal items are in your car. For example, if you get pulled over for speeding and the officer smells burning marijuana coming from your vehicle, this could provide sufficient probable cause for a search. (Recreational marijuana use is legal for adults in Illinois, but it cannot be used in public and is illegal to smoke in your car.)

Work With a Crystal Lake Criminal Defense Lawyer

Have you or a loved one been arrested and charged with a crime based on evidence found during a search of your vehicle? If so, it is important to contact an experienced McHenry County criminal defense attorney right away to ensure that your rights are fully protected. The team at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, is ready to help you challenge the validity of the search and the evidence found so that you can have the best chance of obtaining a favorable outcome. Call 815-338-3838 for a free consultation today.




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