A warrantless search may leave you looking for answers

A traffic stop can be intimidating. It is normal to feel nervous when a law enforcement officer steps up to your vehicle and asks for your identification. You may be trying hard not to look suspicious even if you know you haven't done anything wrong.

Police officers may take advantage of your nervous state to trick you into surrendering your rights. For example, if the officer who pulled you over convinced you to allow a search of your vehicle, the results may have been criminal charges that extended beyond a traffic citation.

The search is over

The U.S. Constitution protects you from police searches that a warrant doesn't authorize. Unless an officer has evidence that you have committed a crime, he or she may not search your vehicle, home or body without a court order or your express permission. You have the right to say no if an officer asks to search your property, even if the officer asks nicely. In fact, advocates for the protections of constitutional rights say you should never consent to a warrantless search for these reasons:

  • Some research shows that if you politely decline the search, the officer will relent and move on without incident.
  • If you refuse permission for a search that produces evidence of a crime, that evidence may be considered inadmissible in court because of the illegal search.
  • A police search is time-consuming and may result in damaged property.
  • You may not be aware of incriminating evidence in your vehicle, for example, drugs or weapons a friend may have stashed under your seat.

In this last situation, once the evidence is found, you will have a difficult time convincing officers that the contraband isn't yours or that you didn't know it was there. Since you allowed the search, they may use whatever they find against you in court.

Searching for a strong advocate

If you agreed to the search, or if police searched your vehicle despite your refusal, you may be uncertain about what to do next. Certainly, you have questions about how the search has influenced the charges against you or how it will affect your overall chances at trial.

Consulting with an attorney as soon as possible after your arrest is a wise decision. An attorney may be able to negotiate a speedy resolution. If this isn't possible, it is likely that your lawyer will investigate the validity of the search and determine if police used any inappropriate methods at the time of your arrest.

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