When Can an Officer Search My Vehicle?
Obeying a police officer with polite respect is under most circumstances the correct procedure when you are pulled over for a traffic issue. However, there are some instances where a police officer may ask for permission to search your vehicle where you have the right to say no, or if they search without your permission, could be illegal. You may wonder, “Do they have the right to search my vehicle?” and you would be right to be concerned.
The problem often arises when a person does not feel they have anything to hide. A police officer may ask to search your vehicle, and since you believe you have nothing illegal in your car, you allow the search. Unfortunately, there are instances, especially in Florida with the high level of drug trade, where innocent people say, “Sure, you can search my vehicle,” and then find themselves being charged with a crime. Large amounts of cash or other seemingly innocent items can be enough to have you arrested under suspicion of committing a crime.
When Should I Say “No” to Search My Vehicle?
Under the Constitution of the State of Florida, Article 1, Section 12, the right against unreasonable search and seizures is guaranteed. However, there are times when police can search your vehicle without a warrant. The two main instances are if there is probable cause and when someone in the vehicle is arrested and the search occurs as an incident of their arrest. Probable cause is the most common to occur. If a police officer can see or smell something that gives them reason to believe there are illegal substances in the car, i.e. drug paraphernalia or a marijuana smell, they can search the vehicle.
However, often you will simply be asked for consent to search your vehicle without probable cause. Even if you are arrested, if you are in the back of a police car, you do not need to consent. Simply say no. If the officers search your vehicle without consent illegally, any evidence they do find may not be admissible in court. Always be courteous and polite, but it is okay to say, “No, you may not search my vehicle” if asked by a police officer. They would not necessarily ask for consent if they had the right to search without it.
Have You Had Your Vehicle Illegally Searched?
If you believe you have been charged with a crime due to evidence found during an illegal search of your vehicle, you need legal representation to fight the charges. Our criminal lawyers can listen to your side of the story and help determine whether you may have been the victim of an illegal vehicle search in Florida. Call our Tampa Bay office to schedule a consultation about your case.