SF_Police_search_the_carYou are driving down any street in Florida. All of a sudden the familiar lights on top of a police cruiser are switched on and start whirling behind you. You have found yourself part of a traffic stop. But can the police legally search your car? Maybe and maybe not.

Here’s what to know.

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens of the United States from unlawful search and seizure. This generally means that just because an officer feels like searching your car does not mean it can be done. There are, however, a number of circumstances when it is legal for the police to search your property, including your car, whether you have given consent or not.

When Can a Warrantless Search Be Completed?

So, the question becomes: When can a police officer, or officers, search my car? Speaking only in generalities, the police can search your car when:

1. You have given your verbal consent.

2. There is probable cause to believe there is evidence of a crime or your participation in a crime inside the vehicle.

3. The officer involved believes that a search of your car is necessary to protect the officer’s safety.

4. You are placed under arrest and searching your car is related to the arrest.

If you are pulled over for, say, running a red light, you don’t normally have to worry about the police searching your vehicle. If, on the other hand, you are pulled over for running a red light and start jumping around the inside of your vehicle and acting suspicious, a search of your vehicle and anything it turns up will typically be admissible in court.

It is also important to note that if your car is impounded, it can be searched without your permission. The reason for the tow does not matter in the least. Whether your vehicle is seized and impounded because you are trafficking drugs or you parked in an unauthorized area, it can be searched. Keep in mind that your car will be searched thoroughly, including inside any locked compartments.

What police cannot do is tow your car simply for the purpose of searching it. They must be able to articulate a very clear and reasonable explanation for the towing of your vehicle and its subsequent search.

If you have been arrested for a crime in Florida, our experienced attorneys are here to defend you. Call our offices today and let us review the facts of your case. First consultations are always free. Call now.

Photo Credit