If police pull you over, it’s understandable that you might be nervous. You may feel guilty even if you know you haven’t done anything wrong. You don’t want to do anything that would arouse suspicion or make police think you have something to hide.
You do all the right things like keeping your hands in sight, handing over your license and responding politely to the officer’s questions. Then the officer asks to search your car, and you aren’t sure what to do.
What are your rights?
Police can’t search your car unless they have probable cause – some evidence of a crime. Probable cause to search your car does not exist simply because you were speeding or have a broken tail light. Some examples of probable cause that may give an officer a reason to search your vehicle include:
- The sight of an open container, drug paraphernalia or weapon in the car
- The odor of alcohol or marijuana
- The admission by you or a passenger that you are involved in something illegal
You may also grant permission for police to search your car. However, civil rights proponents warn that police are clever about seeking your permission. They may phrase their request in such a way that you believe you do not have the right to say no. They may try to convince you that refusing the search makes you look guilty. Remaining polite as you refuse to allow police to search your vehicle usually brings the incident to an end.
Finding help to protect your rights
Knowing your rights is important. If police have not detained or arrested you, you are probably free to go at any time, but you may have to ask the officer several times before he or she dismisses you. However, if you are arrested after police search your car without a warrant, you may end up in a serious situation. Nevertheless, you do have legal options.
An attorney can clarify those options for you and help you decide the next step to take in your defense strategy. Most importantly, an attorney will stand up for your rights and defend you against any evidence police gathered illegally. Having a determined advocate on your side as soon as possible after your arrest will yield the best possible results for your situation.