The Fourth Amendment protects you against unlawful search and seizures. This makes it illegal for law enforcement to search a vehicle without permission or a valid reason.
What should you do if the police ask to search your car?
When can the police search your car?
The courts allow law enforcement more legal justification to search a vehicle than a home without a warrant due to the assumption that people have less of an expectation of privacy when driving a vehicle than they do in their homes. However, specific circumstances must apply:
- You have given your consent
- Officer reasonably believes the search is necessary to protect themself
- Officer has probable cause to think the vehicle contains evidence of a crime
- Search is relevant to your arrest
- Officer has a valid search warrant
Should you consent to a search?
If an officer asks to search your vehicle and there is no search warrant, you can either tell them no or exercise your right to remain silent. The decision is yours, but there is no benefit to you to consent to a search. If the police search your car anyway, allow them to do so. Any evidence the officer obtains during an illegal search is not admissible in court.
Whether you have committed a crime or not, the constitution protects your right against unreasonable searches and self-incrimination. You do not have the right to lie to the police, but you are not obligated to provide incriminating evidence, including consenting to a search of your vehicle.