The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects our right to privacy and freedom against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. In order for the police to search you or your house, they must first obtain a search warrant. However, under the “automobile exception”, it is constitutional for a police officer to search your car without a search a warrant since individuals have lower expectations of privacy when operating a vehicle on the road than they do when they are in their own homes.
A police officer can search your car without a search warrant if: (1) you consent to a search, (2) the police officer has “probable cause” to suspect a crime, (3) the police officer “reasonably” believes a search is necessary for their own protection, or (4) you are arrested and the search is related to your arrest. To find probable cause, an officer cannot rely on a hunch that you are involved in a criminal activity. The officer must have observe facts or evidence, such as the sight or smell of contraband in the vehicle, to legally search you. Violating traffic rules, such as speeding, is not a probable cause to search your car.
You have the constitutional right to refuse a search of your vehicle. Your refusal is not an admission of guilt. If the police search your car without your consent and find illegal items, it is critical you consult a criminal defense attorney right away to file a motion to suppress the evidence from being used in court against you. Our defense lawyers are very familiar with constitutional defenses and we will analyze the police reports to find out if the search and seizure was legitimate. Through cross-examination of arresting officers, we can attack their credibility and break down the case against you.For a complimentary consultation to discuss your case, call 877-335-6697 or contact our firm by e-mail.