Free ConsultationSe Habla Español940-382-1976

When Can the Police Search My Car?

Posted on in Criminal Defense

TX defense lawyerIt is not uncommon to hear or read about a person who was arrested for drug possession or a similar crime after being stopped by police for a traffic violation. Situations such as these lead to an extremely important question: How does a traffic stop transform into a search which leads to the discovery of illegal drugs, guns, or other contraband? The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution addresses the rights of citizens regarding searches and seizures. However, the way in which the courts have interpreted the Fourth Amendment over the years has created a deal of confusion for many people.

The Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment promises that the government—which means the police, by extension” shall not violate “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” It goes on to state, “No Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,” and that a warrant must describe where the search is to take place, as well as the items or individuals that are expected to be seized.

Of course, when the Fourth Amendment was ratified in 1789, the automobile was still over 100 years away from being invented. As such, our founding fathers could not have foreseen such mobility for the average citizen. Because cars and trucks are so mobile, the warrant requirement is not exactly very conducive to the efforts of law enforcement, which is why courts around the country have had to review cases of warrantless searches to set precedents that must be followed by law enforcement officers.

Probable Cause

The police are allowed to search your car, but they cannot do so for no reason. The officer must have probable cause to believe that your vehicle is or has been involved in illegal activity. Probable cause could be based on something the officer sees looking into your car, for example, or the smell of illegal drugs. There does not necessarily need to be physical evidence visible, but the officer might believe that he or she will find such evidence by searching the vehicle. In such a case, the officer must be able to clearly state why he or she has such a belief, or the search could be determined to be illegal later.

It is extremely important to remember that questions regarding a warrant or probable cause can be avoided altogether if the officer obtains your permission to conduct a search. However, the officer does not need to ask you directly or clearly. Instead, the officer might something along the lines of “You don’t have anything to hide, so you won’t mind if we do a quick search, right?” If you allow the search, you will lose your ability to challenge the legality of the search down the road.

You absolutely have every right to tell that officer in no uncertain terms that you do not consent to a search. Your refusal will not necessarily prevent the search, but by doing so, you can preserve your ability to challenge the legality of the search if the officer finds anything incriminating. If it is ultimately determined that the search was illegal, there is a good chance that the court will throw out any evidence that was found in the search. Without the evidence, prosecutors are likely to have a much less convincing case, which could even lead to the dismissal of the charges against you.

Call a Denton County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you love has been arrested based on evidence found in a search that you believe was illegal, contact an experienced Denton criminal defense lawyer. At Marsala Law Group, we will work hard to ensure that your rights and best interests are fully protected. Call 940-382-1976 to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team today.


Back to Top