Whether the police stop you for suspected DUI or you simply pass by a DUI checkpoint, it may leave you wondering if officers can search your car without a warrant.
Here are things to keep in mind in case the police pull you over and ask you to step aside for a car search.
When is it reasonable?
The law protects motorists from illegal searches. However, there are circumstances that authorize police officers to lawfully conduct a car search, even without a warrant, such as:
- Plain view evidence: If the officer finds evidence of a possible violation in plain view, they can search your car. This can range from seeing empty liquor bottles in the passenger seat or smelling alcohol upon approaching your vehicle.
- Imminent danger: An officer can search your car if they have a justifiable reason to believe that they are in danger, such as the presumption of a hidden weapon in your vehicle.
- Lawful arrest: If the officer has probable cause that you committed a crime and has made a lawful arrest, they can search your vehicle to check for evidence related to the crime.
- Consent: If you allow the officer to search your car, they are authorized to do so.
- Impounded vehicle: An impounded car is subject to a police search. However, one must note that officers cannot seize a car for the sole purpose of conducting a search.
These circumstances can give you a better idea of immediate car searches and help you determine whether yours was lawful.
Your right to decline
Understandably, some people feel intimidated in front of a police officer. However, it is always a good idea to know your rights if you encounter a situation involving car searches. If you believe there is no justifiable reason for the police to search and seize belongings from your vehicle, you can decline as you are protected under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.