Many of us know someone who has had a bad run-in with the police. Even if they weren't doing anything wrong, the police may have gone too far, making them feel like criminals. You have the constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. The police also have rules they are supposed to follow. It is important to understand your rights the next time the police pull you over and ask to search your car.
In most cases, the police need your permission to search your car. Even if it seems like you don't have a choice, you should seriously consider protecting your constitutional rights by refusing to let them unreasonably search your property.
Some people think that if you have nothing to hide, you should not worry if the police search your car. Unfortunately, the real world doesn't always work that way. There are a number of reasons why you don't want the police searching your car without your consent. In the first place, you should not have to sit there while the police trash your car looking for something that they don't even know is there. When they are done, they won't nicely put things back where they were. They may leave you on the side of the road, picking your property up off the street.
The police can also arrest you for something that is totally legal, just because they ‘suspect' that it is suspicious. For example, police officers across the country have been criticized for their heavy-handed use of the ‘civil forfeiture.' If police find a sum of money that they think could be related to some criminal use, they can simply take it, sometimes making it impossible for you to get the money back. Even if you explain that you are on your way to purchase a vehicle, or need to send money to a family member overseas, you'll have to go through a complicated legal process to get your money back.
In some cases, the police can search your vehicle without your consent. If the officers see evidence of a violation or criminal activity in plain sight, they may be able to search your car. During a traffic stop, if the police officer sees an open container of alcohol on the floor of the vehicle, they may use this to justify a search of your vehicle. If the officer sees a glass pipe in your ashtray, they may suspect drugs are present in the vehicle.
The police may also be able to search your vehicle after an arrest. If you are arrested, the police may search the vehicle of the driver, including the trunk if they believe there is evidence of criminal activity in the vehicle. If your vehicle is being impounded as a result of a violation or arrest, the police can also use this to justify a full search of the vehicle.
You should know your rights when a police officer asks to search your car. However, it is also important to remember that the street is not the place to fight if the police are violating your constitutional rights. Police officers can try and stretch the rules, and sometimes they will search your car even if it is against the law. Don't pick a fight with the police on the side of the road. Instead, let your criminal defense attorney take on the police in court.
At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her legal career to defending people facing criminal charges in the East Bay. With more than 30 years of experience, Lynn Gorelick understands how a drug conviction can affect your future, threaten your job, and how to fight to keep a conviction off your record. If you are facing a drug charge, contact the local East Bay criminal defense attorney who understands that you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.