Do police have the right to search my car? 53 Answers as of August 24, 2011

If my car is locked do police have the right to search? What are my rights?

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Austin Legal Services, PLC
Austin Legal Services, PLC | Jared Austin
The police can only search your vehicle with your permission or if they have probable cause to search, especially if the area is a locked out. They would have to demonstrate probable cause which means a likelihood of finding illegal substances or items. If you are arrested or your vehicle is impounded, they can search it via an inventory search for safety purposes.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 8/24/2011
Law Office of Andrew Subin
Law Office of Andrew Subin | Andrew Subin
They cannot search your car without a warrant.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 8/15/2011
Reeves Law Firm, P.C.
Reeves Law Firm, P.C. | Roy L. Reeves
Excellent question and one I need to write a blog on. In Texas a cop can only search your car if he has permission, a warrant, or articulable exigent circumstances. In years past, cops said they were searching for weapons incident to arrest - a new case law has stopped that from happening when the Court of Appeals said that the harm or danger which justified the search is no longer existent when the defendant is under arrest. This exception is to cars only at this point. The one exception I envision, and I have not had a chance to argue it yet, is an inventory of the vehicle at the impound yard, though I believe it is subject to the same restrictions - it is yet to be appealed and ruled upon. Bottom line, ALWAYS DENY PERMISSION TO SEARCH. There is not one good thing that will come of it for you. If a cop asks you for permission to search, he has already made up his mind that he wants to search and has a reason (even if it is only his gut opinion) to want to arrest you and he is looking for some justification. READ THAT AGAIN PLEASE - THE COP IS GOING TO ARREST YOU, HE ONLY WANTS TO SEARCH SO THAT HE CAN KEEP YOU UNDER ARREST. So, if you have nothing to hide (they love to say that, if you have nothing to hide why not let me search) you still have nothing to gain. The officer is either going to arrest you or not, and letting him search your car is not going to change that fact. His mind is either made up or not, and it if is made up, there is nothing you can do to stop it, even if he does not find anything. If it is not made up, denying the search will either cause him to call a dog to sniff the car (unreasonable detention perhaps) or ask for a search warrant (this takes time) or let you go. Your car does not have the same protections as your home, but you do have some right to privacy in your car. NEVER LET A COP SEARCH IT WITHOUT A WARRANT. This does not mean they will not search anyway, but if they do, at least you have a chance to file a motion to suppress if something is found. If you give permission, they have all they need and it becomes your word against that of a cop in court.
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 8/11/2011
Law Office of Roianne H. Conner
Law Office of Roianne H. Conner | Roianne Houlton Conner
They can legally search your car only with consent or a search warrant.
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 8/8/2011
Brucar & Yetter, P.C.
Brucar & Yetter, P.C. | Wayne Brucar
The police have a right to search your car, even if it is locked, if they have an articulable reason to do so, ie. probable cause to believe the car is involved in or contains the evidence of a crime. If the police do not have probable cause for the search, a motion to quash, ie. throw out, the search can be filed and heard if criminal charges are brought against you.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 8/4/2011
    Grantland, Blodgett, Shaw & Abel
    Grantland, Blodgett, Shaw & Abel | Gregory M. Abel
    It depends on the circumstances. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. This is really a question that a lawyer should sit down and review with you.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 8/4/2011
    Lowenstein Law Office
    Lowenstein Law Office | Anthony Lowenstein
    It depends on several factors
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/4/2011
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S.
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S. | Steve Freeborn
    If it is locked and does not impose a possibility of imminent harm, then "no". A search warrant is necessary. However if the contraband is in plain view; ie in a place where it is visible through the window, then this is not considered a search. Need to know a lot more facts before I can answer with any certainty
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/4/2011
    Palumbo and Kosofsky
    Palumbo and Kosofsky | Michael Palumbo
    Do police have the right to search my car? Yes. If my car is locked do police have the right to search? It depends, situationally. What are my rights? You have a 4th Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizures.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Law Office of Richard Williams
    Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
    8-3-11 Because an automobile is mobile the police have more rights to search than you might expect. It is still a case by case basis as to whether there was sufficient reasonable cause for a search without a warrant and I do not have sufficient information to know whether police could search or not. Otherwise, police would need a search warrant or permission to search.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
    The searching of a person or property is a complex area of the law. To answer your question you need to call me and give me all the facts. The short answer to your question then is yes and no.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Bloom Legal, LLC
    Bloom Legal, LLC | Seth J. Bloom
    Police need to establish probable cause to search your vehicle. This can be a very tricky aspect of the law and is not always cut and dry. If police searched your vehicle and you were arrested but believe that you may have grounds to fight your case based on illegal search and seizure, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to assist you with your case.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
    Whether the police have the right to search your car depends on why they are conducting the search. Without more facts, an answer cannot be given.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    The Law Office of Kevin O'Grady
    The Law Office of Kevin O'Grady | Kevin O'Grady
    Generally, Americans have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. A warrant is usually the safest bet for police officers. Absent that, they must have sufficient evidence to meet one of many exceptions to the warrant requirement. Search and seizure is very fact dependent and you should hire an attorney to fight for you to protect your rights. If your attorney is successful in getting evidence obtained from a search suppressed, the charge against you could be dismissed.
    Answer Applies to: Hawaii
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    The police can search your car if you consent to the search or if they reasonably believe that you are committing a crime. They can do an "inventory search" after you are lawfully arrested if they can show that it was done in the normal course of their duties as police officers to inventory the property of a car they have impounded. Otherwise the search is illegal and the contraband can be suppressed and not available to be used against you at trial, often resulting in a dismissal of the charges.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Law Office of Tracey S. Sang
    Law Office of Tracey S. Sang | Tracey Sang
    The police may search a car if they have a warrant or if they have probable cause to believe that the car must be searched without a warrant or evidence will be lost. Every case is different and unique. Feel free to call me or any defense attorney if you'd like to run the particular fact pattern past.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Michael Breczinski
    Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
    Do they have warrant or do they have probable cause to believe that a crime has been commited and there is evidence of that a crime there and they have an exception to the requirement of a warrant. If not then the anwer is no.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    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: 8/3/2011
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law | Jules Fiani
    No. Unless they have consent or a search warrant.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    The Law Office of Cindy Barton
    The Law Office of Cindy Barton | Cindy Barton
    That is a complicated question that more several facts would have to be known to answer completely.If your car is on private property, locked and no one in it probably the police don't have a right to search unless they are in hot pursuit of someone involved in a crime and have information that the car may have been involved in the crime.Then they maybe could search.It would be best for them to obtain a warrant if they don't see a person get in it. If you have been driving you car on the road, are on the road now, and the police pull you over and your car is locked, they do not have the right to search unless (1) they arrest you, the car can then be searched incident to arrest, (2) there is something in plain view that gives them information that a crime is being committed (ie drugs or alcohol) Even the smell of drugs in your car can be probable cause to search.(3) Weapons visible that give the police a reason to believe that their safety is in question. (4)You give them permission.You do have an expectation of privacy in your car.It is not as great as in your home, and may be overcome.You do not have to give any officer permission to search your car.However, if they have an subjective reason to search, they will attempt to get your permission.I would always be polite, but would ask them if they have a warrant to do so.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
    They need probable cause, but yes they can search your car.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Law Offices of James A Bates
    Law Offices of James A Bates | James A Bates
    The police do not have an absolute right to search your car. They must have either your consent or a reasonable suspicion that something illegal is inside or some sort of emergency. They cannot search on the basis of a hunch. If a charge was filed against you, your attorney must file a 1538.5 motion to challenge the search. If the search is found to be illegal, the evidence found inside the car is thrown out along with all other evidence that came from that.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    The Law Offices of Gabriel Dorman
    The Law Offices of Gabriel Dorman | Gabriel Dorman
    The laws surrounding the 4th Amendment and whether or not search is lawful is largely dependent on ALL of the facts and circumstances surrounding the search of your car. Needless to say, greater detail is needed to properly answer your question. Your best bet is to contact a criminal defense lawyer to thoroughly discuss the details of your case. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Jonathan S. Willett Attorney at Law
    Jonathan S. Willett Attorney at Law | Jonathan S. Willett
    Hello- Police can search a vehicle if they have a reasonable suspicion that contraband is inside based after a legal stop of the car has occurred.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Law Office of Edward J. Blum
    Law Office of Edward J. Blum | Edward J. Blum
    Only under the following circumstances can they search your car: (1) with a search warrant issued on probable cause; (2) as a search incident to a lawful arrest (probable cause to arrest you); (3) without a warrant when they have probable cause to believe a crime has occurred and that (a) evidence will be destroyed, (b) evidence will be used, (c) they believe the evidence is a danger to them; (3) upon reasonable suspicion upon detaining you they can search the area of the car that you would have immediate access to (ie: passenger compartment; (4) upon a valid stop, they can seize items as evidence that are in plain view. If they have a warrant to search your car they could do so, if it was locked and you were not in it. Otherwise, probably not.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Law Office of Jared Altman
    Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
    You don't have enough facts for me to give you a definitive answer. Did you get pulled over and then jump out of the car and lock it? But, the basic answer is no. They can't just search your locked car unless they can see something suspicious inside.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Law Office of Michael Brodsky
    Law Office of Michael Brodsky | Michael Brodsky
    "Warrantless" searches, meaning searches performed without a search warrant, are presumed to be unreasonable and a violation of both the the Washington State and US Constitutions. There are, however, limited exceptions to the warrant requirement including consent or exigent (emergency) circumstances. However, it is an area of law that is far too complex to explore in a short answer. If you have been charged with an offense based on a search it is certainly worth having a good lawyer represent you to analyze those issues.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Frances R. Johnson
    Frances R. Johnson | Frances R. Johnson
    A search is lawful where an officer has a warrant, consent to search, the presence of exigent (emergency) circumstances necessitates a search, or search is incident to an arrest. If you feel a search was not lawful and criminal charges arise out of the search, and an attorney is not appointed to represent you, I suggest hiring an attorney who can assist you with your options for addressing a potential unlawful search.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Nelson & Lawless
    Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
    Simply sitting empty and locked in the driveway or parking lot, no, police would need a warrant to search, unless you are on probation or parole and waived your 4th Amendment search and seizure rights. If you were driving and quickly got out and locked it before they could get to you, yes, it would arguably be part of a stop and they could search. If you were arrested and 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 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 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: 8/3/2011
    Lawrence Lewis
    Lawrence Lewis | Lawrence Lewis, PC
    Not enough info to answer the question. If a baby is locked in the car, yes. If you run from the vehicle, as police approach, maybe. If there is a legally parked, locked vehicle, with no other info, no. Even if the police acted improperly, who will you get to argue the 4th amendment motion to the court
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Andersen Law PLLC
    Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
    It would depend on the circumstances of the search. Also it would depend on whether they obtained a telephonic warrant. If your vehicle was impounded, the police would have the right to do an "inventory" although they must have a legitimate reason for the impound. Generally speaking though, unless there is some kind of emergency, law enforcement must obtain a warrant to search a locked vehicle. Your remedy in this case would be that any evidence obtained through the illegal search would be thrown out of court.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Harden Law Offices
    Harden Law Offices | Leonard D. Harden
    The police do not have a right to search your locked car without a warrant. There are many exceptions to a warrant requirement such as consent, exigent circumstances which may very well permit a search. The facts will dictate whether the search was lawful or not.
    Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Night Life Lawyers
    Night Life Lawyers | Joshua Aldabbagh
    The answer, as it usually is with legal questions, is "it depends". If the police have a search warrant, they can search the car. If you are being arrested and the police need to tow your vehicle, they car conduct an "inventory search" of your car. If the police have probable cause to suspect there is contraband hidden in your vehicle, they can search your car. If, however, your car is legally parked and the police do not have probable cause, they may not search your car. There are many other factors and variables that can affect the answer.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Boske Law Offices
    Boske Law Offices | Michael A Boske
    Only if you allow them or they are conducting an inventory search before it is towed.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Cynthia Henley, Lawyer
    Cynthia Henley, Lawyer | Cynthia Henley
    It depends on the circumstances. Were you being arrested? Had you just been in your car? Was your arrest related to something you had just been doing & you jumped out of the car and locked it? Need more information. In general, your car cannot be searched if it is properly parked and you are not in it and have not just been it if you are being arrested. Bear in mind, however, that your right to privacy in your car is significantly less than your right to privacy in your home because of the mobility of a car (which means that even if a cop had probable cause to get a warrant and got a warrant, he would have a hard time finding the car . . . v. a home which remains where it is without moving.)
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Potter Law Offices
    Potter Law Offices | Cal J. Potter, III, Esq.
    Generally the police do not have the right to search a car without a warrant. However, if the car is stopped during a traffic stop there would have to be an additional basis for them to do a search of the car.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Gary Moore, Attorney at Law
    Gary Moore, Attorney at Law | Gary Moore
    If you are out of your car and it is locked the police are supposed to seek a search warrant to search the car.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Gregory Casale Attorney at Law
    Gregory Casale Attorney at Law | Gregory Casale
    Generally, the police cannot search our car without your permission unless they have a search warrant. However, as there are with most things legal, there are some exceptions to this general rule. For instance, if you are being placed under arrest, they can do an inventory search of your vehicle. Or, if they see something illegal in your vehicle and can show that if they waited the time it would take to get a search warrant that there was a good chance that you or another would destroy the evidence. You really should speak to an attorney about your specific situation. There search issue is far too complex to give you a determination as to whether or not the police had the right to search your car without knowing far more details. If you would like to discuss this in more detail, you can contact me through my office. If you have been charged with a crime or suspect that you will be you really should have an attorney represent you.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    Under some limited circumstances the police can search an automobile without a search warrant. If a car is parked and there is time to obtain a search warrant, the officers will most likely obtain a warrant to search, however if time does not sufficient and there is probable cause to believe there is contraband or fruits of a crime in the vehicle, the officers can search without a warrant.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    We recomend that you retain a criminal attorney ASAP. The answer to your question would depend upon a careful analysis of all the facts by your attorney, including whether or no the police had probable cause to search, among other factors. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    with a warrant, yes. Without a warrant, maybe not. Depends on circumstances not included in your post.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Law Office of Kathryn L. Hudson
    Law Office of Kathryn L. Hudson | Kathryn L. Hudson
    Under a recent change from the US Supreme Court, Arizona v. Gant (Supreme Court of Arizona, 7/25/2007)The police may no longer search an automobile incident to a lawful arrest without a warrant once the situation is secure and the defendant poses no threat to the officers. If your car is locked and you are not it then absolutely they need a warrant. If you have pending charges and this happened to you any evidence seized without such a warrant should be excluded, if you don't already have an attorney you need to retain one right away.
    Answer Applies to: Arkansas
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    John Segelbaum, P.S.
    John Segelbaum, P.S. | John Segelbaum
    It depends. As a general rule the police need a search warrant to search a vehicle but there are several exceptions to this requirement, depending on the reason for the search. The fact that the car is locked may not make any difference if the search is otherwise justified.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    The Law Office of James McKain
    The Law Office of James McKain | James McKain
    In America, we are protected from unreasonable searches. Any search conducted without a warrant is unreasonable, by definition, unless the search fits into one of several narrowly constructed exceptions to the warrant requirement. There are several reasons an officer could have legally searched your car, including but not limited to: the officer had a warrant; you were under arrest at the time and the search was incident thereto; or if the officer could plainly view the evidence from any place an average member of the public could legally be. Without further information it isn't possible to advise you whether this search was legal. The best course of action would be to contact a criminal defense attorney so you may discuss the specifics of your case in a private and confidential setting. Thank you,
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Law Offices of Martina A. Vigil, PC
    Law Offices of Martina A. Vigil, PC | Martina A. Vigil
    No. In order for a search by the police to be lawful they must have a warrant, signed by a judge, describing the particular items to be seized. An officer cannot search your vehicle for no reason if no warrant is present and you do not consent to a search. If this occurred and you were subsequently charged with a crime, your case could be dismissed by way of a suppression motion.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    It depends. A lawful search must be incidental to a lawful arrest. For example, if you smelled of marijuana, then searching your car for drugs would be incidental to the arrest. On the other hand, if you were simply speeding, then no. But most people don't say no when the cop asks questions like "Can I search your car?" If so, then it is considered implied consent.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Law Office of Kyle T. Green, PLLC
    Law Office of Kyle T. Green, PLLC | Kyle T. Green
    It depends on the situation. Police can only conduct a search without a warrant if they have probable cause or with consent. Depending on the circumstances of your case, the police may or may not have had the required probable cause to conduct the search.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Miller & Harrison, LLC
    Miller & Harrison, LLC | David Harrison
    There are many things that go into being able to answer this question, and insufficient facts are given for me to be able to provide any valid answer. It can depend on the things the officer observed prior to the search, what you said, etc. I would suggest making an appointment with a lawyer to discuss the specifics.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Michael D. Fluke, P.A.
    Michael D. Fluke, P.A. | Michael D. Fluke
    Police have the right to search your car incident to your arrest based on your proximity to the vehicle. They may not search it otherwise without a warrant or an exception to the warrant requirement. I suggest you consult a local Criminal Defense attorney to discuss your case in greater detail and learn all of your rights and options. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Rothstein Law PLLC
    Rothstein Law PLLC | Eric Rothstein
    You need to give some facts.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/3/2011
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