The U.S. constitution and amendments provide people with protection against searches that are considered unreasonable. While you are protected against illegal searches of your person, in many cases it also extends to vehicle searches. It is important to know that if a search was done illegally, any evidence found in the search cannot be used against you by the prosecutor.

Consent to Search

If you are stopped for a traffic violation, the police may ask if you will allow them to search your vehicle. You have the right to refuse to consent to a vehicle search. The police are not required to inform you of your right to refuse. If you do agree to the search it is considered voluntary on your part. This means that you have given permission for the officer to search your car. Keep in mind that you can change your mind and stop the search at any time.

Probable Cause

A member of law enforcement may search your vehicle without your consent if they have probable cause. Probable cause means that the officer has reason to believe that there may be something of an illegal nature in your vehicle. For example, the officer may see something illegal on the seat during a traffic stop. This may be enough for probable cause to search your car.

Search with Arrest

If you are arrested, the police are legally able to search you as well as the immediate area, such as the vehicle where you were sitting. This applies only if you were arrested. If you are stopped for a traffic violation, without an arrest, your vehicle cannot be legally searched without your consent. If arrested, your entire vehicle may be searched.

Was My Search Legal?

Many people wonder if the search of their vehicle was done legally. If evidence was taken in an unlawful vehicle search it may not be used in court. This can have a significant impact on your case. If you have been arrested due to evidence found in a vehicle search it is important to speak with an experienced criminal attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will review the case and determine whether the evidence was taken legally. Although the case against you may continue, any illegally obtained evidence cannot be used, so the case may be weak. Contact your lawyer as soon as possible to help you resolve your situation.