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2 ways police can do warrantless searches on cars

On Behalf of | Sep 23, 2022 | Criminal Defense

You may have been driving when police pulled you over and requested to investigate your car. Maybe it’s because you were driving someone who they suspected might be carrying drugs, or they believed they would find something incriminating.

Whatever the case, you have a right to refuse a car search without the officer first providing a warrant that proves there’s reasonable cause for said search. However, there are ways police get around a warrant – here’s what you should know:

You gave the officer permission to search your vehicle

You may have allowed police to search your vehicle because you believe they won’t find anything – police may still find something to warrant an arrest. You may have had someone in your car who left behind incriminating substances or police may have planted drugs in your vehicle.

Police have probable cause to search your car

Probable cause occurs when police believe they have a reason to arrest someone, seize property or search a car. A search or arrest may be done by probable cause because:

  • The vehicle has history with a lawful arrest
  • There is evidence of a public safety threat
  • The vehicle was impounded and cataloged
  • There was contraband in plain sight

Police may search a vehicle if an illegal substance or weapon is in their view, but vision isn’t the only sense they’ll rely on. There may be an unwarranted search because police believe they (a drug-sniffing hound) smell a substance.

Probable cause shouldn’t be confused with reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is often no more than a hunch and can cause illegal unwarranted searches – reasonable suspicion can, however, lead to probable cause and a legal search. An officer may believe someone is under the influence because of the way they’re driving, failed field sobriety tests or slurred speech.

If your car was recently searched after a police investigation, you may need to reach out for legal help that can provide you with steps to protect yourself.