Is That Search Warranted?
You may have seen countless television dramas where a vehicle is routinely searched during a traffic stop, usually leading to the findings of something incriminating. Real life differs a lot from fiction, but you may have wondered what rights a vehicle owner does have when it comes to searches. Read on for an exploration of your rights to a search when there is no warrant presented.
Would you give your permission for a search?
You may be asked for permission to search your vehicle when stopped and feel a bit intimidated about refusing. After all, doesn't a refusal indicate that you have something to hide? In some cases, the law enforcement officer may let you know about the reason for the request, but not always, and this can leave you in the dark about the motivation for the request. The thing you must keep in mind is that if the police have good reason to ask for the search, then they also have a good reason to conduct the search with or without your permission. What this means is that your permission is irrelevant.
The grounds to conduct a search
It's not lawful for an officer to simply conduct a search without your permission if there are no grounds. If you refuse to give permission for a search and there are no grounds, then a search won't be conducted. Unfortunately, there are usually grounds to conduct the search regardless of your permission, and often those grounds are flimsy at best.
What are ground to search?
Almost anything out of the ordinary about you, your driving, or your behavior could bring on suspicions and thus prompt grounds for a search (also known as probable cause), such as:
1. Weaving between the lines while driving or other traffic violations
2. Nervous mannerisms, like sweating or failure to maintain eye contact while speaking with the officer
3. Funny smells coming from your car, such as those associated with marijuana
4. The officer spots an open container, drugs or drug paraphernalia or a weapon in plain sight
Incident to an arrest
If the officer observes anything amiss and it appears you will be arrested, then a search may be conducted "incident to an arrest". You can still refuse permission, but if there are grounds it may not matter and the search will be conducted.
Know what to do
Being stopped by law enforcement should not mean giving up your rights, but just be sure you maintain them without making matters worse. You can refuse a search, but you should never take action to prevent one. You are on the record as refusing, however. It should be mentioned that you have no obligation to say anything at all to a law enforcement person beyond giving your name, date of birth and presenting them with identification. If you've been arrested, seek help proving that procedures were not followed. Speak to a defense attorney right away.
Contact professionals like Larson, Latham, Huettl Attorneys to learn more.