Why Can Police Search My Car Without a Search Warrant?
Many people are not aware that your vehicle is not held to the same standards as your home when it comes to police search and seizures. You have a greater expectation of privacy in your home than you do on the public roads and highways. While police almost always need a search warrant to search your home, they rarely need a warrant to search your car.
People have a lesser expectation of privacy on public roads and highways and streets than they do in their own homes. If you’re traveling down the interstate in a car and law enforcement stops you, they do not need an a search warrant to search your car. However, they do need what is known as probable cause. Police cannot just stop you for a traffic violation and search your car, they need a little bit more. Ultimately, anything police find in your car can be held against you in a court of law, but police must have a legitimate reason for searching your car in order for the evidence to be used against you at trial.
While law enforcement does not always need a warrant to search your vehicle during a traffic stop, police are bound by the Constitution of the United States to establish probable cause that a crime is taking place before searching your vehicle. In an interstate drug stop cases police often establish probable cause to search either by claiming they smell the odor of narcotics or by having a drug dog sniff the car and indicate to the odor of narcotics.
What often happens during traffic stops is that a law enforcement officer will stop a vehicle with out of state license plates and begin to look for an excuse to search the vehicle. Police may ask about the purpose and destination of travel. However when.police questioning unnecessarily prolongs the reason for the traffic stop it may be a Fourth Amendment violation.
So while a law enforcement official can search your car without a search warrant, if they don’t have probable cause to search that car, the search is illegal and you have a constitutional right to have all evidence obtained pursuant that unlawful search suppressed, rendering it inadmissible in a court of law. At Berry Law, we analyze the searches, from the reason to the stop, to the detention, the search, and the arrest,
If you’re searching for legal counsel after an unlawful traffic stop and search, reach out to the criminal defense attorneys at Berry Law. If the search violates our client’s constitutional rights, we get into court and we uphold the standard. We protect our clients from illegal searches and seizures.