Can a police search your car without permission? 45 Answers as of June 10, 2013

My boyfriend got pulled over and they searched the car without permission. He had a drug charge. Is that just cause?

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The Law Firm of David Jolly
The Law Firm of David Jolly | David Jolly
The police cannot search your vehicle without permission - generally. We are all protected against such things under the Constitution. However, there are limited circumstances when a search such as you describe is permissible (maybe). Such examples include a "plain view search" when the officer looks in the windows of the vehicle at a traffic stop. Another is called a search incident to arrest when they can do a generalized search after arresting an individual. If the search is illegal then anything that comes from the search is suppressed. The officers may have searched the vehicle if they found out your boyfriend had a drug charge - but that does not mean it is legal.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 5/27/2011
Reeves Law Firm, P.C.
Reeves Law Firm, P.C. | Roy L. Reeves
Search of cars is a touchy subject far too broad to give homage to here, however, I can summarize and hopefully answer your question. A search must be on permission, warrant or upon justified reason. Permission is just that, a person with actual care, custody, or control of the area give the police permission to search. A warrant is a Judge giving permission and the warrant may be challenged for cause - what was the Judge told that made him decide to issue the warrant, where did the information come from, was it reliable, etc. The last one is the crux of many suppression hearings. A cop cannot search the car unless he has a reason. That reason must start with articulable facts gained from the perspective of a person with the right to be there. In other words, a cop pulls BF over for no reason and smells marijuana. Smell of marijuana may or may not be justifiable reason to search - lets assume for this discussion it is - but the cop had no right to pull him over, therefore the cop had no reason to be close enough to the car to smell marijuana and therefore the articulable suspicion fails. The search is no good. Same facts but this time BF was speeding, now the cop has a reason to stop BF, at the stop the cop smells marijuana. Now the stop is legal, the articulable suspicion is good. The analysis does not stop there however. . . . Like I said, too long a subject to discuss here. The simple version is that it is like dominoes set up on end, like you did as a kid, tip one it sets off a chain reaction, that is how search and seizure works. It is a chain of dominoes. If any one domino does not fall, it does not knock down the next and the chain is broken. What the attorney has to determine is if there is a break in the chain. BTW: marijuana has a very distinct smell, court cases have held that a police officer trained to recognize the smell can testify to the existence of the drug based on his training. Cocain however, does not have such a smell, so the answer to your question depends on the drugs found, the reason for the stop, and the reason for the search.
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 5/18/2011
Law Office of Geoffrey M. Yaryan
Law Office of Geoffrey M. Yaryan | Geoffrey M. Yaryan
Police cannot search you car unless they have probable cause to do so.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 5/17/2011
Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law
Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law | Thomas J. Tomko
In Michigan, a vehicle can be searched for many reasons. First, there has to be probable casue to stop the vehicle. Next, the vehicle can be searched in the area of the driver for safety of the police officer. Alternatively, there could be permission to search. If there is an arrest, then the vehicle could be subject to an inventory search. I suggest that you retain an attorney to review the particulars of your case. You may contact my office to make an appointment to discuss representation. I hope that this was helpful.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 5/16/2011
Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
The police may search the car if. 1 he gives permission 2 if he is on probation or parole 3 if they have probable cause.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 5/16/2011
    Anderson & Carnahan
    Anderson & Carnahan | Stephen Anderson
    No, talk to an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 6/10/2013
    Howard W. Collins, Attorney at Law
    Howard W. Collins, Attorney at Law | Howard W. Collins
    Good question but much too complex to answer without a lot more detail. You will need to call so we can talk so I can ask questions which may help me answer your question. Unfortunately, the police have a lot of authority to search cars under certain circumstances.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Law Office of Jonathan T. Sarre
    Law Office of Jonathan T. Sarre | Jonathan T. Sarre
    "Probable cause" is what they need (or a search warrant)," just cause" is something else (and not really a legal term). Under some circumstances the cops can search your car without your permission and often something called the "automobile exception" applies. The idea is that cars are mobile and if the cops have to get a warrant to search the car, the car may have taken off by the time they get back with the warrant. So if the police officer has probable cause to believe he'll find something you're not supposed to have, and the car is mobile, Federal constitutional law allows them to search. Also many jurisdictions allow law enforcement to perform what is known as an "inventory search." For the police to perform an inventory search, however, they have to have made a decision to tow the car for something (like, for example, driving without insurance or driving while suspended). Assuming they have authority to to the car, they can "inventory" the contents of the car for valuables (the idea being to safeguard your property so nothing disappears at the tow lot). The rub is, if they find something you weren't supposed to have, like drugs, they can prosecute you for the stuff they found.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Bloom Legal, LLC
    Bloom Legal, LLC | Seth J. Bloom
    If the police had probably cause to pull you over then they have the right to search inside the car. They may not, however, open a locked glove compartment or trunk without your permission.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law | Jules Fiani
    No, not unless they have a search warrant. You need to call an experienced attorney such as myself.....visit my website for more information regarding how to obtain an experienced, knowledgeable attorney with great reviews.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    LynchLaw
    LynchLaw | Michael Thomas Lynch
    Yes, the police can search a vehicle without permission. You mentioned a drug charge, was your boyfriend arrested for drugs at the time? If so they may be able to search the vehicle subsequent to arrest. Was there a pending arrest warrant out on a drug charge, if so, same answer. Was your boyfriend out on probation following a drug charge? If so he might be subject to search and seizure. So Yes, the police can search a vehicle without permission from the owner.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Law Office of Tracey S. Sang
    Law Office of Tracey S. Sang | Tracey Sang
    Under certain exigent circumstances police may search without a warrant, usually when the evidence will be lost if the search is not immediate. This is often the case with drug arrests. However, an attorney who understands Fourth Amendment law may very well be able to find a way to label the search illegal. The details of the stop and search become very important. If the search is found to be illegal, the case will be dismissed so it is worth your time to have an attorney evaluate the case.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    Under very specific circumstances a police officer may search a motor vehicle without a search warrant and without the owner's permission.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Andersen Law PLLC
    Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
    I need way more information than what you have provided. He may have been illegally stopped in the first place. The arresting officers may not have had probable cause to search. Your BF may have consented to the search of his vehicle, that would allow the cops to search. On the other hand, the stop may have been legal and the search illegal. That question would turn on the facts of the search. Generally, police can search the area around the driver if there is probable cause to support a crime. If so, the officers are allowed to search the area around the suspect. Places like glove compartments and center consoles, if locked, cannot be opened without consent or a warrant. Since your question turns on the issues I raise, I would need detailed information about the stop and arrest. Please give me a call and We can discuss those facts.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    The police need probable cause to search, or a warrant. If they saw contraband in plain view they do not need to obtain a warrant. Otherwise your lawyer can run a suppression hearing and have the drugs suppressed and the case dismissed. Call anytime for a free consultation.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Law Office of Michael Moody
    Law Office of Michael Moody | Michael Moody
    If your boyfriend was already on probation, he would have executed a 4th Amendment Waiver, which would allow police to search him, his car or his home at any time. If wasn't on probation at the time, then police cannot search without the driver's consent or unless they have probable cause without a warrant, e.g. seeing drugs in plain view.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Law Office of Richard Williams
    Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
    Police officers can search an automobile without permission or a search warrant if they have probable cause to search. The Court makes the decision as to whether probable cause exists.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Law Office of Thomas F. Mueller
    Law Office of Thomas F. Mueller | Thomas Mueller
    They cannot search without probable cause. But they frequently lie about that in order to get legal justification. For more info or a fee quote call.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Edward  D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law
    Edward D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law | Edward D. Dowling IV
    I would need more details to decide whether the police had probable cause to search the vehicle. He should hire an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Law Office of Andrew Subin
    Law Office of Andrew Subin | Andrew Subin
    Under some circumstances, they can search your car without your permission. However, a prior drug charge, by itself, is not a good enough reason to search a car. I would have to hear more about it to give you my opinion about whether the search of your boyfriend's car was unlawful.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
    The police are not allowed to simply search your vehicle at random. However, if they charged him with a crime, then they are allowed to do a search "incident to a lawful arrest" and that could be how they did it. Nonetheless, police often try to gain access to a person's car by asking/telling them that they "just want to look around" and ask if "that's alright with you?" Right?" Most people will feel intimidated and say "Yes" and that's all the police need to search your entire vehicle. Instead, say "I respectfully decline to allow any search of my vehicle, thank you." Hire a good lawyer for him right away. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C.
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C. | Michael Anthony Wing
    It depends on the circumstances. They can for officer safety if the stop was legal, and they conduct the search while there is still risk to the officer. If the defendant was already cuffed and away from the vehicle, the search may have been illegal. He needs counsel. Tell the lawyer to look at the fairly recent case from the US Supreme Court of Arizona v Gant. Stay well.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Nichols Law Firm
    Nichols Law Firm | Michael J. Nichols
    They cannot unless they can establish a warrant requirement exception.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Palumbo and Kosofsky
    Palumbo and Kosofsky | Michael Palumbo
    Was he arrested? If so there is a good chance our office can get the charges dismissed. We can represent you.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly | Brendan M. Kelly
    Police cannot search you car without permission.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Vermeulen Law office P.A.
    Vermeulen Law office P.A. | Jacob T. Erickson
    There may be ground to have the drugs located in the car suppressed based on an illegal search. When evidence is suppressed it cannot be used in court against the defendant. If the drugs are the State's key evidence, then the case might be dismissed. The process to challenge the admissibility of the drugs is a complicated legal matter that should be handled by an experienced criminal defense attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Law Office of Martin Blank
    Law Office of Martin Blank | Martin E. Blank
    Generally, police officers need your permission or a warrant to search your car. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. For example, the can search incident to an arrest, or if they have probable cause to believe there is contraband in the car and getting a warrant could cause loss of the contraband.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
    The answer would depend on whether the officer had probable cause. Without knowing the circumstances of the stop a more specific answer is not possible. As a general rule, the police could not pull you over for no reason and then conduct a search. For more information, contact us.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    Whether or not the police may search your car without a search warrant depends, in some cases, on whether or not they had probable cause to search it, under what is called the Carroll doctrine. In other cases, they may also search, for example, if valid consent to search is obtained. The bottom line is that you need to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Harden Law Offices
    Harden Law Offices | Leonard D. Harden
    No police may not search a car without a warrant or an exception such as consent.
    Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    The Law Offices of Mark Kotlarsky
    The Law Offices of Mark Kotlarsky | Mark Kotlarsky
    No. Motion to suppress should be filed.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 5/13/2011
    Law Office of Rankin Johnson IV, LLC
    Law Office of Rankin Johnson IV, LLC | Rankin Johnson IV
    It depends on facts that you didn't say, and maybe don't know. To search a car without permission, they need probable cause that evidence will be discovered. It's a question to discuss with a lawyer, but they could have that without you knowing about it. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 5/12/2011
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    No it isn't. But what likely happened is your boyfriend didn't say NO, and when you don't say no explicitly, it is considered implied consent. He ought to get a lawyer to litigate this probable cause issue.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/12/2011
    Law Office of Michael Bialys THE DUI MAN
    Law Office of Michael Bialys THE DUI MAN | Michael Bialys
    If he was not on probation and he did not have a warrant and the search was not consensual he would need to establish probable cause to search the vehicle. If the search was illegal than you can get the evidence suppressed.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 2/24/2012
    Austin Legal Services, PLC
    Austin Legal Services, PLC | Jared Austin
    Police can only search your vehicle on a traffic stop in two instances: 1) the owner/driver gives permission, or 2) the police have probable cause to believe that drugs or other contraband will be found. Just because he has a previous drug charge is not enough. The police would have to articulate some probable cause such as they could see drugs or drug paraphernalia in plain view of the vehicle, an odor of drugs was emanating and obvious, or something else they could point to that would indicated drugs would be found. I would suggest having an experienced criminal defense attorney review the police report and cruiser cam video right away. A trained eye will be able to evaluate the facts and determine if a suppression and/or dismissal motion should be made.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/12/2011
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    Do not know what you mean by "he had a drug charge". If it is that he has a case and one of the conditions he is released is to be searchable, boy friend has given his consent.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/12/2011
    The Law Office of Kevin O'Grady
    The Law Office of Kevin O'Grady | Kevin O'Grady
    Under the Unites States Constitution you have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. If you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney he can examine the facts of a case and try to suppress evidence seized pursuant to a search. If the government has no evidence then there should be no criminal charge.
    Answer Applies to: Hawaii
    Replied: 5/12/2011
    Nelson & Lawless
    Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
    Yes, if they claim to have probable cause to do so. Yes, if he is on probation or parole, either of which waives his 4th Amendment rights. Yes, if they claim he consented. If arrested or charged with a crime, you can fight it. When arrested or charged with any crime, the proper questions are, can any evidence obtained in a 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 and facts are available for legal arguments, for evidence suppression or other motions, or at trial. You face potential jail and fines, so handle it right. Effective plea-bargaining, using those defenses, could possibly keep you out of jail, or at least dramatically reduce it. Go to trial if it can't be resolved with motions or a plea bargain. Not exactly a do it yourself project in court for someone who does not know how to effectively represent himself against a professional prosecutor intending to convict and jail you. 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. If serious about hiring counsel to help you in this, and if this is in SoCal courts, feel free to contact me. Ill be happy to help use whatever defenses there may be.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/12/2011
    Noah A. Bradow, Attorney & Counselor, pllc
    Noah A. Bradow, Attorney & Counselor, pllc | Noah A. Bradow
    Generally, the police need a warrant or probable cause to search your vehicle. However, the facts of each particular stop and search should be reviewed to find opportunities to have the stop or search excluded. You can contact my office to discuss your boyfriend's case.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/12/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    If you are under arrest for something, the car can be searched for inventory purposes. Contact me for a free consultation.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/12/2011
    Rothstein Law PLLC
    Rothstein Law PLLC | Eric Rothstein
    It depends on the facts. I am a former federal and state prosecutor and now handle criminal. Feel free to check out my web site and contact me if you wish to retain counsel.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 5/12/2011
    Law Office of Joe Dane
    Law Office of Joe Dane | Joe Dane
    The answer isn't an easy or straight-forward one that can be answered based on a two line question. Can they search? It depends. Did they have a warrant? Did they seek consent? Did they arrest him for something before they searched? Did he have a license? Did they have independent probable cause to search the car? Search issues are fact specific, so the entire situation will need to be reviewed by a criminal defense attorney to examine the legality of the search. If the search was illegal, the evidence is out.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/12/2011
    The Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann
    The Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann | Christopher J. McCann
    Generally not, but there are exceptions. Some include whether he was on probation or whether he was arrested while in the car, or arrested outside of the car but there is a reasonable likelihood there is evidence of that crime still in the car.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/12/2011
    Moffitt & Phillips, PLLC
    Moffitt & Phillips, PLLC | Brandon Moffitt
    No. They must have probable cause to search the car, absent consent.
    Answer Applies to: Arkansas
    Replied: 5/12/2011
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