Can the police search a vehicle after the owner denied permission to search the vehicle? 74 Answers as of May 29, 2013

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Austin Hirschhorn, P.C.
Austin Hirschhorn, P.C. | Austin Hirschhorn
If the police have "probable cause" they can search a vehicle after the owner has denied the police request for permission to search the vehicle. To justify the search there must be something about the content of the vehicle that triggered the request to search otherwise the police could have impounded the vehicle and obtained a warrant to conduct the search. If your defense attorney does not think there was probable cause for a search that issue should be raised at the preliminary hearing. You don't indicate why the vehicle was stopped or what, if anything, was found as a result of the search. Without more information it is impossible for me to give you a proper answer to your question.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 8/21/2012
Law office of Robert D. Scott | Robert Scott
Yes, they can search the inside area. It is debatable as to whether they can search a locked glove compartment. But absent consent, they can't search a locked trunk, without a warrant.
Answer Applies to: Maryland
Replied: 8/20/2012
Law Office of George M. Derieg
Law Office of George M. Derieg | George Derieg
Yes. If the police believe they have probable cause they can search your car without your permission. Probable cause can come in all shapes and sizes; generally if the police saw you commit a crime with your car, or in your car that would justify searching it.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 8/18/2012
Gregory Casale Attorney at Law
Gregory Casale Attorney at Law | Gregory Casale
The police must have either the owner's permission, a search warrant, or exigent circumstances to search your vehicle. Exigent circumstances are very narrowly defined and if the police asked you for permission, they obviously felt they needed it to search. I hope you have good counsel. It sounds like a motion to suppress to me.
Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
Replied: 8/13/2012
Dennis Roberts, a P.C.
Dennis Roberts, a P.C. | Dennis Roberts
No. Now ask me if that stops them from searching and claiming they were given permission.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of Richard Southard
    Law Office of Richard Southard | Richard C Southard
    It depends on the circumstances. There are an infinite number of nuances and thousands of cases in the area of auto search law. Even with that, there is rarely a concrete definite answer. The judge who decides the suppression hearing will make a determination on the lawfulness of the search based on all the evidence at the hearing. Get yourself an experienced defense lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    Yes, under the appropriate conditions a search warrant can be avoided and the police can conduct a search of the car.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of Brian K. Wanerman
    Law Office of Brian K. Wanerman | Brian K. Wanerman
    Unfortunately, the police can search pretty much whatever they want. You did the right thing by refusing consent. But, whenever the police conduct a search anyway, never interfere. Contact an attorney as soon as possible. Although the police can search, the big issue is whether or not any evidence they find can be used against you. They key is whether or not the search was constitutional. If it wasn't, the evidence must be suppressed. In general any search conducted without a warrant is unconstitutional. However, there are a large number of exceptions to this general rule. The police/prosecutor will always claim that one or more exceptions existed. Without knowing more details about your case, it's impossible to tell what exceptions they might claim. You should consult an attorney immediately to protect your rights.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Michael Breczinski
    Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
    If the police are asking permission it usually means that they need a search warrant.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of Michael E. Dailey
    Law Office of Michael E. Dailey | Michael E. Dailey
    Can they search? Yes. They have guns. You can't stop them. However, now the question is: Was it an illegal search and if it was, can the results of an illegal search be suppressed and kept out of evidence in court? The answer is yes but the issue must be properly raised and presented in court to achieve that result.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Alvin Lundgren | Alvin Lundgren
    If they have probable cause, or if the search is incident to the arrest.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Herschel Bullen
    Herschel Bullen | Herschel Bullen
    The question lacks factual detail which would enable me to respond specifically. The answer to your question is: it depends. While a warrant is generally required before an officer may conduct a search, an officer may search a vehicle without a warrant if the vehicle is readily mobile and probable cause exists to believe the vehicle contains contraband. Are there surrounding circumstances which may provide probable cause for the search? Probable cause to search a vehicle without a warrant requires a belief on the part of the officer, reasonably arising out of the circumstances known to him, that an automobile contains something which by law is subject to seizure and destruction. Probable cause to search a vehicle without a warrant is a flexible, common-sense standard, i.e., a practical, nontechnical probability that incriminating evidence is involved, is generally all that is required. But there are many possibilities depending upon the particular facts of your case. There is no simple, on size fits all, answer.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
    The law in this area is complex but generally a vehicle can be searched incident to a lawful arrest, where there is probable cause to believe there is contraband in the vehicle or if consent is given by the lawful possessor (doesn't have to be the owner)
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of Christopher G Humphrey PC | Christopher G Humphrey
    Sometimes, they have to have probable cause, such as a dog alerting, or several collective factors such as smell of drugs, look of car, nervousness of driver, and other factors.
    Answer Applies to: Wyoming
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Timothy J. Thill P.C.
    Timothy J. Thill P.C. | Timothy J. Thill
    If the officer had a reason to believe that a crime had occurred, was occurring, or would occur, he has a right to search the auto, or if the search was a result of a lawful arrest for a bailable offense.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Universal Law Group, Inc. | Francis John Cowhig
    Not unless they first obtain a search warrant, have probable cause or there are exigent circumstances. If you are presently being charged with a crime, I strongly suggest that you contact an experienced criminal law attorney for a face-to-face consultation and give him/her all of the facts surrounding your arrest. He/she would then be in a better position to analyze you case and advise you of your options, including the possibility of filings motions to suppress.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    THE LOCKHART LAW FIRM | CLAYTON LOCKHART
    If they weren't given permission to search the vehicle, then all they would need to do is apply for a search warrant, which if granted, would allow them to search the vehicle even without the owner's consent.
    Answer Applies to: Mississippi
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of Jared Altman
    Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
    Only in the immediate vicinity of any occupants.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
    The police may search a car without a search warrant or permission if they have probable cause to think that there are illegal items hidden inside.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of Gregory Crain | Gregory Crain
    Yes with a warrant or exigent circumstances.
    Answer Applies to: Arkansas
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    Perhaps. The answer depends on whether there is an exception to a requirement for a search warrant such as having contraband in plain view, an inventory search or other exigent circumstances. You should have your case reviewed by an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Larry K. Dunn & Associates | Larry K. Dunn
    If the police have probable cause and exigent circumstances, the police can search a vehicle without a warrant. Absent exigent (emergency) circumstances, the police must seek a search warrant from a judge in order to search a vehicle without the owner or person who has possession of the vehicle permission.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law | Mark Thiessen
    Yes for weapons in the grab area, with a warrant, or for inventory post arrest.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    Yes if there is probable cause. For example, if the cop smells marijuana. It could be a whole host of things that give rise to probable cause.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Offices of Mark L. Smith
    Law Offices of Mark L. Smith | Mark L. Smith
    Can they? Yes. Is it legal NO! But be prepared for the police to say that the owner consented to the search.
    Answer Applies to: Rhode Island
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Nelson & Lawless
    Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
    CAN they search? Yes. They generally may for cause, for personal safety of the officers, upon arrest, etc. If you were arrested or charged, you would have an evidence suppression issue to raise in a motion if prosecutors seek to introduce into evidence what they found. If serious about hiring counsel to help in this, and if this is in SoCal courts, feel free to contact me.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Myles Hahn III Attorney at Law | Myles Hahn III
    Yes, depending (in short) on whether they knew a crime took place or was taking place. If you have been charged with a crime, retain a qualified attorney immediately for proper legal advice.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Clos, Russell & Wirth, P.C. | Gary A. Russell
    In certain circumstances yes. If an arrest has been made and the vehicle is being impounded incident to the arrest, then the officer can perform and inventory search. If the officer has probably cause, a search may be warranted without an arrest or warrent. If the officer sees contraband in the vehicle, the officer can seize the contraband and then search the vehicle. Finally, the officer has a limited ability to search to assure his saftey (kind of like a pat down of the person to assure there are no weapons).
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Offices of Sheryl S. Graf
    Law Offices of Sheryl S. Graf | Sheryl S. Graf
    Under the 4th Amendment, we are to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. In general, for a search to be valid, the police need a warrant or consent. There are many exceptions to the general rule. I recommend that you meet with an experienced attorney to thoroughly evaluate your case. If the search was illegal, then the punishment for the police is suppression of any illegally obtained evidence. The prosecutor would not be able to use that evidence in a criminal prosecution. Without sufficient evidence, the criminal charge would be dismissed.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of Michael J. Orlando | Michael J. Orlando
    They're not supposed to unless they either obtain "voluntary" consent or they have some other basis for the search which is recognized as an exception to having a search warrant. If the police located evidence in the vehicle that they are now trying to use as evidence against you, then an attorney can file a Motion to Suppress the evidence in order to prevent it's use in court. Good luck to you.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Germaine & Blaszka, P.A.
    Germaine & Blaszka, P.A. | Donald L. Blaszka, Jr.
    In NH, the police can search a vehicle after the owner or driver denies consent to search the vehicle if the police obtain a search warrant.
    Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Leonard A. Kaanta, P.C. | Leonard A. Kaanta
    No.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/29/2013
    Law Office of James A Schoenberger
    Law Office of James A Schoenberger | James A Schoenberger
    Usually only if they first obtain a search warrant, but if the driver was not the owner, he or she can give permission to search.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of Ronald G. Draper | Ronald G. Draper
    First,one must understand what can do versus what is lawful that they can do. Secondly,the circumstances of a vehicular stop by police and ignoring your denial of a consent search, still will be reviewed by courts as to the entirety of the incident and stop. Consult a lawyer for specific answers.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Steven Alpers | Steven Alpers
    The police need probable cause or a search warrant if the owner denied permission to search.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Dunnings Law Firm
    Dunnings Law Firm | Steven Dunnings
    Not unless it was a search incident to an arrest
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Reza Athari & Associates, PLLC | Seth L. Reszko
    The police can search a vehicle if they have probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime or contraband is in the vehicle whether or not their was consent. Obviously, if the driver consents, it makes it easier for the police to prove that they had the right to search the vehicle.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Pearson, Butler, & Carson, PLLC
    Pearson, Butler, & Carson, PLLC | Matthew R. Kober
    They can if they have probably cause to believe there is illegal activity, for example if they could smell marijuana, etc. Otherwise, no.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Dennis P. Mikko Attorney at Law | Dennis P. Mikko
    It would depend on the circumstances under which they searched. Generally speaking, without permission, the police would have to obtain a search warrant.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    James M. Osak, P.C.
    James M. Osak, P.C. | James M. Osak
    YES . . . happens ALL the time. However you keep denying them permission. They should have gotten a warrant because anything they find has to be expunged (w/o a warrant). But . . . if they do find something they'll just say YOU gave them permission.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    T.K. Byrne | Timothy K. Byrne
    Yes. Whether or not the search is lawful will be fact driven and ultimately decided by a judge
    Answer Applies to: Mississippi
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law | Charles M. Schiff
    They can search the vehicle over the owners objection if they have probable cause to believe they will find contraband or have placed the owner under arrest for a jailable offense.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Goncalves Law Office | Humberta Goncalves-Babbitt
    This is a situation which is very "fact specific" which means that it will depend on the actual facts of the stop, (i.e., if something is plainly visible to the police, etc.). This is a matter that cannot be responded to in this type of a forum. You need to speak to an attorney and discuss all the facts.
    Answer Applies to: Rhode Island
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    The police can search a vehicle legally if they have consent or probable cause. They can also search legally if they have the right to arrest the driver for any crime. If they arrest the driver they have the right to search "incident to arrest" without consent. Your attorney can request a suppression hearing to determine if the evidence was seized illegally or not.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law & Mediation Office of Jeffrey L. Pollock, Esq.
    Law & Mediation Office of Jeffrey L. Pollock, Esq. | Jeffrey Lawrence Pollock
    Yes if there is "probable cause" to do so.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S.
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S. | Steve Freeborn
    Generally not, but there is the "plain view doctrine", which means that if the officer looks through the windows or door of the vehicle and sees something in plain view, he does not need a search warrant. Also, be careful how you protest, as the officer could then simply have your vehicle impounded and then obtain a warrant. You will be responsible for the costs of the impound, which could be expensive. If you can't pay the impound fees, you don't get your car released.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of Stuart M. Nachbar, P.C.
    Law Office of Stuart M. Nachbar, P.C. | Stuart M. Nachbar
    If there is something in plain view, they can.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 8/7/2012
    Douglas M. Philpott, P.C. | Peter J. Philpott
    If they have probable cause to do so.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Offices of Patricia M. Corrales
    Law Offices of Patricia M. Corrales | Patricia M. Corrales
    The answer is twofold. No and Yes. Consent to search is an exception to the warrant requirement but there are other exceptions as well that maybe applicable to your situation. Without know more facts, it is difficult for any lawyer to give you advise. I suggest that you contact a criminal defense attorney for further guidance.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Natty Shafer Law
    Natty Shafer Law | Nathaniel Shafer
    It depends. I know that's a frustrating answer, but it depends on all the circumstances. The police need probable cause to stop a car, and once it is stopped the police officer can search for weapons anywhere an occupant could grab a weapon. Beyond that, they need probable cause that they will find further evidence of criminal activity to search the vehicle. If the police searched your car without permission, it is possible that any evidence might be suppressed. Hire a talented lawyer for the best results.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of Ismail Mohammed | Ismail Mohammed
    Hello, Typically the police cannot search a vehicle without the person who's in possession of it at the time of the stop with he/her permission. Depending on where the car was parked, they may search it under the doctrine of search incident to an arrest. You should hire a criminal defense attorney to see if there may be issues of suppression.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Lawrence Lewis
    Lawrence Lewis | Lawrence Lewis, PC
    Yes, if the owner is under arrest, or the vehicle will be impounded, or the vehicle is being seized in forfeiture proceeedings, or the vehicle is evidence of a crime, or...
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Darrell B. Reynolds, P.C. | Darrell B. Reynolds
    Only if the search is incident to an arrest.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Mary W Craig P.C. | Mary W Craig
    If the police can give exigent circumstanceshe smelled marijuana, driver was acting suspicious, that sort of thingthen the police can search the vehicle without permission or a warrant. The answer to this question will depend almost entirely on what led up to the search.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of James J. Rosenberger | James Joseph Rosenberger
    If you consented to the search they can but if you withdraw your consent, absent a search warrant, they cannot. The details of the stop/search need to be fleshed out. The law on search and seizure is complex and each case presents a potentially different application of the law. There are exceptions to the hard and fast rules on vehicle searches.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of Mark Bruce
    Law Office of Mark Bruce | Mark Corwin Bruce
    Depends on the circumstances. All you can say is that it was a non-consensual search. There are many exceptions to the 4th Amendment when it comes to autos.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Palumbo and Kosofsky
    Palumbo and Kosofsky | Michael Palumbo
    Not without probable cause
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Randall M. England, Attorney at Law
    Randall M. England, Attorney at Law | Randall M. England
    The police may search a vehicle without permission if they have probable cause to believe that illegal items or evidence of a crime may be found inside. It would be unusual, but they can also search inside if the arrested person is still inside the vehicle. If the vehicle is towed in, the police may also do an inventory search later for the purpose of safeguarding the owners property, and protecting the police from accusations of theft.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    John P Yetter | John Yetter
    If the police have probable cause to search, consent may not be needed.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Michael S. Edwards, Attorney at Law, PLLC | Mike Edwards
    Yes, if they have probable cause, or one of the other exceptions to the usual requirement that they have a search warrant. You need to consult with a good defense attorney, and get an opinion, based upon the specific facts of your case. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Stephen D. Hebert, LLC | Stephen Hebert
    Only if the if the officers have the following: (1) a warrant; or (2) probable cause to believe that contraband or other evidence can be found in the vehicle + ?exigent circumstances.? However, it should be noted that courts tend to find exigent circumstances when a car is involved.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Miller & Harrison, LLC
    Miller & Harrison, LLC | David Harrison
    It depends a lot on the circumstances ? if they develop probable cause that a crime is committed they may be able to. It is very dependent on the facts and circumstances so it is worth discussing with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your area.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of Richard Williams
    Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
    There are circumstances where a police officer can search an automobile without a warrant and without permission.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Hynum Law Office, LLC
    Hynum Law Office, LLC | G. Wayne Hynum
    It depends on the circumstances. If the driver is arrested, the vehicle can be searched incidental to the arrest. If the driver is not arrested, but the officer can articulate a "reasonable suspicion" that the vehicle contains illegal weapons or drugs, he can search without permission and without a warrant. Of course, the police might claim they had a reasonable suspicion and the Court could disagree with them on that and throw the search results out.
    Answer Applies to: Mississippi
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Mace J. Yampolsky, LTD
    Mace J. Yampolsky, LTD | Mace Yampolsky
    Not legally, unless the owner was arrested, then they can do an inventory search.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Thomas C. Brandstrader Attorney At Law | Thomas C. Brandstrader
    If they believe they have exigent circumstances....they take a real chance that anything they find in a non-consensual search will be banned from trial.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Gorman Law Group, P.C. | Troy T. Gorman
    There is not enough facts available to be certain, but generally, if you have been stopped for a traffic offense and there is "reasonable cause" for the officer to believe there is a weapon or contraband in the vehicle, they can search.? If you were taken into custody, they can search the vehicle before they impound it for inventory and saftey reasons.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    LEATHERS LAW FIRM
    LEATHERS LAW FIRM | A. Wade Leathers, Sr.
    Generally, No. Unless a search warrant is obtained.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly | Brendan M. Kelly
    Police may only search with a warrant, permission or after you have been stopped and arrested.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Furlong & Drewniak PLLC
    Furlong & Drewniak PLLC | Thaddeus Furlong, Esq.
    Not unless they have a legal reason, such as arresting the driver, seeing what reasonably looks like drugs inside, or if another occupant of the car says they can. A drug dog alert is also sufficient probable cause for a search. The are allowed to order everyone out of the car for "officer safety". If they arrest the driver for something and they need to tow the car, the police can "inventory" the contents which means search it prior to towing.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Connell-Savela
    Connell-Savela | Jason Savela
    If they have a good reason to. There are many circumstances that allow it but the prosecution must justify the search in court to a judge. The passenger area of a car is among the least protected areas in the USA. The trunk is better but still not as good as the home. Refusing to allow the search forces the cops to justify it. Consenting removes the ability to argue it was an illegal search. Always refuse.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 8/13/2012
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