Your Rights to Refuse a Search at a Traffic Stop


     By Law Office of James Davis, PA

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There is nothing more nerve racking than being pulled over by a police office. More often than not people know what they were doing wrong, but wonder if they will be able to get out of it. There are times that the person has no idea what they were doing to be pulled over in the first place.

A police officer may request permission to search your vehicle. You should know you have every right to refuse. There are a couple of instances where the office does not need permission in order to conduct their search, but more often than not they will need your permission.

It is your constitutional right to refuse the search of your vehicle. While an officer may shape their question in the form of a command you should know what your rights are.

When is an officer allowed to search your vehicle without permission?

The 4th amendment was created in order to protect people from illegal search and seizure.

There are 2 instances when an officer does not require permission to search your vehicle:

1. If you are being arrested. While the officer can legally search your vehicle without permission there are limitations for where they are allowed to search. For example: the officer may be allowed to search the inside of your car, but not be allowed to search your trunk.
2. If the officer has probable cause to believe that you are involved in criminal activity. This does not often happen like it does in the movies where an officer happens to walk up and see a bag of drugs popping out from underneath the seat. The officer has strict guidelines for the type of evidence that they are able to use in order to use probably cause as a reason for being able to search a vehicle without permission.

How to refuse the search of your vehicle the right way.

The most important step is to know your rights and being confident in your knowledge. The officer will have to ask you permission. This is a request even though it may sound more like a command.

You are allowed to refuse this request. All you have to do is state that you do not give them permission to search your vehicle.

The officer may choose to do a search anyway. The worst thing that you can do is lose your cool. Simply keep repeating that you are not giving them permission to search your vehicle. Most police cars are now fit with a camera that records all stops. The camera will be able to see that you are clearly stating that you are not giving the officer permission to search your vehicle. Do not become aggressive or threaten the officer. Simply keep stating that you do not give them permission.

Hold your ground.

Reading or thinking about refusing an officer is one thing, but standing in front of them and having to state that you are refusing them permission is a completely different thing. Just stay strong and be confident in your knowledge.

Request permission to leave.

A traffic stop can be confusing for an individual, so never assume that you are finished. You should request permission to leave from the officer before pulling off into traffic.

If the officer gives you permission simply carefully pull back into the flow of traffic.
If the officer does not give you permission, but instead chooses to begin to question you do no answer their questions. Simply state that you have the right to remain silent until a lawyer is present. The officer is often trying to detain you as a way to give them time to pump you for more information that actually may just lead to more trouble for you.

Where to Get Legal Help

Many people pulled over by the police wonder whether they can refuse a search of their vehicle. Even though you may understand your rights, it is usually best to have an experienced legal advocate looking out solely for you in these situations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James Davis
Our attorneys are ready to fight and are willing to do whatever it takes under the law to ensure your interests are protected. If you are detained by a police officer, exercise your right to remain silent and call one of our criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.