Can the police legally search my car if I say no? 47 Answers as of July 09, 2013

I went to give a gift to my daughter after my ex said it was ok. I got there and she said no too late I tried pleading with her and she stuck to no when out corner my eye I see police. She said I had a gun there to kill her. I was sitting on the floor and just hung presents from door knob. They asked my name and I told them asked what I was doing and I said me and my ex were arguing. So I came outside and they asked if they could search my car. I said no, if I was under arrest. They didn’t answer and just attacked me. So I gave up and they got my 38 out my pants then asked to search car. I said no at first and said I would tow so I said ok. But in the black backpack that was mine they found 1.7 meth, a 740 dollars scale, a pipe, and money I just withdrew. I have check stubs from work to prove this. Was this an illegal search?

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Freeborn Law Offices, P.S.
Freeborn Law Offices, P.S. | Steve Freeborn
Reading your statement of the facts, you indicate that you told them it was OK to search because they threatened to have your vehicle towed. The threat to tow your vehicle was appropriate in that if they suspect you might be concealing something, ie. gun ir other dangerous weapon, they could impound until they obtain a warrant to search. Fearing the tow, apparently you gave consent, so the search was not illegal. The fact that they found a 38 in your pants during a search of your person, didn't help your cause.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 2/3/2012
Law Offices of John Carney
Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
Your summary states that the police asked you if they could search your vehicle and you said no, but then they told you it would be towed and so you gave them your consent to search it . They found a gun and drugs and you want to know if it was a legal search. If you gave them permission to search your car then it was a legal search and they did not need a warrant. Your ignorance of the law and your rights resulted in your being arrested for several serious felonies that could result in a long prison term. You should not be driving around with guns and meth, and if you do at least be smart enough to not be manipulated by the police to give up your constitutionalism rights against unreasonable searches ans seizures. What you do not know can hurt you.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 9/2/2011
Reeves Law Firm, P.C.
Reeves Law Firm, P.C. | Roy L. Reeves
Yes as you describe it the search exceeded reason. There may be other circumstances that you are not telling or even realize but as of last year, there is a case out of the US Supreme Court that severely limits the cops ability to search a car.
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 8/30/2011
Law Office of Ernest T. Biando, LLC | Ernest Biando
Depends-the police have the right to pat you down for such things as a gun or knife-however motions can be made to surpess such evidence-retain an attorney my office has defended numerous clients in the same sitution.
Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
Replied: 8/30/2011
Beaulier Law Office
Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
Challenging the validity of a search may often result in the suppression of evidence resulting from the search. Whether or not a search is valid, or whether arguments exist that it was a violation of the fourteenth amendment and State constitutional protections requires a full review of the facts of the case. Accordingly, you would be wise to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer. As a general rule, law enforcement may not make a search without a valid warrant supported by probable cause. There are, however, numerous warrant exceptions including cases where contraband is in plain sight, where the search is related to officer safety, or where exigent circumstances exist supported by additional probable case.
Answer Applies to: Minnesota
Replied: 8/29/2011
    Fabian & Associates, Inc.
    Fabian & Associates, Inc. | Stephen G. Fabian, Jr.
    Only if they have probable cause.
    Answer Applies to: Oklahoma
    Replied: 8/29/2011
    Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC
    Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC | Jacob Peter Sartz IV
    You'd need to consult with an attorney regarding this issue on private basis. Whether a search was legal is always in issue in a pending criminal charge and is the type of issue you'd need to discuss with your retained or court-appointed council. If the search was arguably not legal, it may be grounds to file a motion to suppress the evidence; however, this particular issue is always factually specific. I'd recommend you consult with your attorney on this matter. If you don't have an attorney, if you charged with a criminal offense, the court may appoint you one at the public's expense.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/29/2011
    A.L.A. Law Group, LLP
    A.L.A. Law Group, LLP | Lauren M. Mayfield
    If they found a gun or weapon of any kind on your person they would have a right to search the vehicle you arrived in as a safety precaution as well as to find evidence of a crime. If you did not consent you should speak with an attorney about a possible motion to suppress the evidence found in your car but if the cops found the gun on you first they probably had a right to search the car as well.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/26/2011
    Jon M. Carter, Attorney at Law | Jon M. Carter
    A handgun in your pants and meth in the car are Not necessary to deliver a gift to your daughter. A search of you "for officer safety" revealed a deadly weapon. The search of your car followed the same rationale. You need a serious experienced criminal defense attorney to keep you out of D.O.C. custody - in my opinion.
    Answer Applies to: Oklahoma
    Replied: 8/26/2011
    Law Office of Michael R. Garber
    Law Office of Michael R. Garber | Michael R. Garber
    If you were already under arrest and did not consent to the search I think it was illegal.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly | Brendan M. Kelly
    Since, you said no and then gave permission it will be held a legal search.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Harden Law Offices
    Harden Law Offices | Leonard D. Harden
    Search and seizure law is entirely fact dependent. The search you described may be illegal, but without all of the facts I can not render a thorough opinion. You are looking at some very serious charges and I would absolutely recommend that you get a lawyer ASAP. If you can't afford one, get the court to appoint you one immediately. If you can afford an attorney find the best in your locality. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Law Offices of Jeffery A. Cojocar, PC
    Law Offices of Jeffery A. Cojocar, PC | Jeffery A. Cojocar
    Depends on your judge but I think the search would be upheld under an exigent circumstance argument.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/11/2013
    Palumbo and Kosofsky
    Palumbo and Kosofsky | Michael Palumbo
    The police were given information that you were armed. It sounds to me like the search of you and your car was legal, and the search of your vehicle was not a "search" so much as a legal inventory prior to towing it. However, whether the search of your person and your car was legitimate turns on technical applications of the 4th amendment and the exclusionary rule. Our office does a lot of criminal defense and automobile crimes so we have the experience to defend just this type of case.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    We recommend you retain a criminal defense attorney about all your rights and options, including contesting the search, even though your attorney might find it to be an uphill fight. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Dunnings Law Firm
    Dunnings Law Firm | Steven Dunnings
    I would need to see the police report to see their reason for "attacking" you. After they found the gun on your person, I assume you were under arrest at that point. The search of the car is questionable but not clear.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
    The police can search a vehicle under various circumstances including whether there is probable cause that it contains the fruits of a crime or contraband. It doesnt' sound like your car had much to do with what they were investigating but an attorney would need to analyze the police report and their alleged justification in order to know your chances of suppressing the evidence.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
    A review of the complete police report would have to be made to determine if it was an illegal search.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/11/2013
    Law Office of Roianne H. Conner
    Law Office of Roianne H. Conner | Roianne Houlton Conner
    It sounds like the search will illegal.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 6/11/2013
    Michael Breczinski
    Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
    The search of the car could be considered illegal because they had no probable cause. But where was the car parked? If on the ex's property and she wanted it gone then they could have found the stuff if the car was inventoried. The gun that was on you they could have found legally. I assume you had no license to carry it.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Gonzalez Law Associates P.C.
    Gonzalez Law Associates P.C. | Carlos Gonzalez
    Yes they have every right to search the area in your immediate control and the vehicle subsequent to an arrest.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Connell-Savela
    Connell-Savela | Jason Savela
    possibly legal, possibly not - i would need more facts if the police have reasonable suspicion that you are armed and dangerous, then they can pat you down for weapons if they have probable cause that a car contains evidence of a crime, they can search it I am guessing there was a restraining order preventing you from being at the house or contacting someone inside??? if so, then you are hosed. if not, then maybe you have a case. But, if she tricked you by inviting you over then called the cops lying saying you were threatening her, then you are going to get searched. Once they find the gun, you have a problem. But the car search may not be legal.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Michael R. Nack, Attorney at Law
    Michael R. Nack, Attorney at Law | Michael R. Nack
    It doesn't sound like an illegal search to me, but if you hire an attorney to defend you on the possession charge(s) your attorney could file a Motion to Suppress and see if a Judge thinks it is.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Law Offices of Sean Logue
    Law Offices of Sean Logue | Sean Logue
    There is no clear-cut answer to that question. A talented attorney may be able to suppress the search.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 7/9/2013
    Law Office of Geoffrey M. Yaryan
    Law Office of Geoffrey M. Yaryan | Geoffrey M. Yaryan
    You did consent but the question is was it done freely and voluntarily considering the threat to impound your car. That is a factual question and would be answered by a judge at a motion to suppress the evidence seize illegally.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    The English Law Firm
    The English Law Firm | Robert English
    You said you said no "at first" but then said ok. This would then be a consensual search. Also, it is likely they could arrest you for the 38 in your pants and then impound and search your vehicle anyway.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Mark C. Cogan Law Offices | Mark Cogan
    Your question is too complicated to analyze without more information. Get the best attorney you can find. You are in serious trouble. The answers to your questions will not be found on the Internet. Worse, anything you post can be read by the prosecutors and the police.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 7/9/2013
    Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law
    Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law | Thomas J. Tomko
    Thank you for your inquiry The search was likely legal for a number of reasons. You appear to be facing a number of serious charges. I suggest that you hire an attorney to review your case and explain why the search may be legal under the circumstances you describe. The search seems to be the least of your worries, while the felony firearm charge seems to be at the forefront. I hope that this was helpful.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Andersen Law PLLC
    Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
    The Emergency Doctrine is an exception to the warrant requirement. The search was likely valid.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Law Office of Richard Williams
    Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
    When they towed your car they were allowed to conduct an inventory search. This is likely a legal search and the evidence collected will likely be used against you.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Law Office of Jared Altman
    Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
    You may have a chance on this one.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/11/2013
    Law Offices of James A Bates
    Law Offices of James A Bates | James A Bates
    Yes they can if they have probable cause. They do not need a search warrant for a car search as long as they have a reasonable belief that there is contraband in the car, especially if they suspect a gun.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Jonathan S. Willett Attorney at Law
    Jonathan S. Willett Attorney at Law | Jonathan S. Willett
    Hello- With what's called "exigent circumstances," police can search a car. However, the search must be limited in scope to its purpose. So if they had you under arrest, the search of the car had to be limited. Based upon what you described, they may have discovered the backpack anyway under the "inevitable discovery" rule. However, there is decent case law, that probable cause to search of vehicle does not always mean they can search a backpack in the car. Best to have this analyzed when you can view their reports to see what the basis of the search was.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    You didn't say no. You folded after they threatened to tow your car (in other words, you consented)
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Nelson & Lawless
    Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
    Can they search you and your car? Yes, with cause. Was it illegal? Not if they had cause. You were accused by the wife of having a weapon [which they found on you]. That certainly gives them cause to search you for their safety, and also the car for other weapons. Contraband found during a legal search is fair game. Of course you can fight the charges. When arrested or charged with any crime, the proper questions are, can any evidence obtained in a test, search or confession be used against you, and can you be convicted, and what can you do? Raise all possible defenses with whatever admissible and credible witnesses, evidence, facts and sympathies are available for legal arguments, for evidence suppression or other motions, or at trial. Not exactly a do it yourself project in court for someone who does not know how to effectively represent himself against an experienced prosecutor intending to convict. If you don't know how to do these things effectively, then hire an attorney that does, who will try to get a dismissal, diversion, reduction or other decent outcome through plea bargain, or take it to trial if appropriate.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Law Offices of Martina A. Vigil, PC
    Law Offices of Martina A. Vigil, PC | Martina A. Vigil
    An officer needs a warrant to search a vehicle. With that rule comes exceptions however. Consent will break the necessity of a warrant and so will a search incident to arrest. If you were arrested by your vehicle an officer may search that vehicle. Also, if the officer has probable cause to believe that evidence of the commission of a crime is contained in your vehicle he may search.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law | Jules Fiani
    You consented.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/11/2013
    Law Office of Edward J. Blum
    Law Office of Edward J. Blum | Edward J. Blum
    It sounds borderline. Is there a restraining order? On the one hand, if they asked for consent and you did not give it, they have to come up with a reason for the search. If you were not in the vicinity of the car, there would not have been grounds to search it pursuant to Gant. On the other hand, if they searched you pursuant to a Terry search and found a gun, and your wife's statements about threatening her were credible (not saying true) that may have given them probable cause to search the car. Although, if the crime were threats and they had the gun I don't see what evidence of the crime they would have hoped to find in the car. I would run the PC 1538.5. Call me, I can help you with this.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Jason Overton, Attorney at Law
    Jason Overton, Attorney at Law | Jason Overton
    If I understand you correctly, you told them "ok" after they said they would tow your car. You need to hire a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
    When your ex stated you had a gun the police can do a pat down search to see if you are carrying a weapon. If they find one they then can search your car without your permission as an inventory search, a search incident to arrest, or a probable cause search. The answer here is that the search was legal.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Law Office of Tracey S. Sang
    Law Office of Tracey S. Sang | Tracey Sang
    Based on the facts you lay out here, there is a good chance that a good lawyer could convince a judge the search was illegal. However, I can almost guarantee you that by the time the cops write their report it will read in such a way that the search is legitimate. Plus you have no idea what information they had before they even started talking to you (from your ex, for example.) Proving a search is illegal is a difficult, uphill battle. That is not to say that you shouldn't fight - you should. Just don't go into it thinking it will be easy. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    Probably, hire an attorney to look at the police reports and obtain any witness info.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    Automobiles are an exception to the constitutional search warrant requirement. If the police have probable cause to believe there are fruits of a crime or contraband inside, they do not have to get a search warrant prior to searching. Also, since the car is moveable, this creates a time factor which would possibly be fairly long if they were to have to get a warrant prior to the search. This set of facts should be thoroughly investigated by a competent attorney to determine if the constitutional requirements are present to permit them to search. You should consult with an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Gregory Casale Attorney at Law
    Gregory Casale Attorney at Law | Gregory Casale
    Your facts are a little unclear. I would need better details. The police need either a warrant, your permission, or articulable facts that they can explain that would lead a person to believe that a crime was taking place. So, your wide saying that you had a gun could be enough, maybe not. It would depend on the context and history etc. It sounds like you told them that they could search your car? If you gave them permission, then anything that they find can be used in court. Without your permission, it comes down to the fear of harm or belief that a crime is taking place. You obviously need an attorney on these charges. Hire a good defense attorney and let him advise you.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    Betts Legal Services
    Betts Legal Services | Shawn M. Betts
    The police generally need probable cause to search your vehicle, and the purpose is unclear as it doesn't sound like you were in the car when the altercation occurred, bringing into question why they needed to search it. It may be possible you have a claim to an illegal search.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 8/25/2011
    John Segelbaum, P.S.
    John Segelbaum, P.S. | John Segelbaum
    it depends. If you gave voluntary consent it is legal. If your consent was coerced, it would not be a proper consent search. However, if the police had probable cause to believe evdience of a crime would be found inside the car, they might be able to search it without a warrant or consent.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/25/2011
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