Can Police Search My Car Without a Warrant
There’s frequent debate about whether law enforcement can legally search your car without a warrant. Even though you might think you’re safe from having your vehicle inspected as long as law enforcement doesn’t have a warrant, the laws that surround this can be ambiguous and confusing. Can Police search my Car without a warrant? Learn more.
The Fourth Amendment’s protection against prohibited vehicle search and seizure generally makes random law enforcement car searches illegal. If you believe that your rights have been violated due to one of these searches, it’s important that you reach out to an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney right away. Unlawful searches like this are a serious matter, and a skilled lawyer can review the evidence surrounding your case to see if you can file a motion to suppress evidence that has been obtained illegally.
Does Law Enforcement Require a Warrant to Search Your Vehicle?
The Fourth Amendment states that police officers need to have reasonable grounds to search an individual’s property, including their car. Typically, this will involve the police officers obtaining a search warrant before they order the search.
However, there are a few loopholes in California law that enable police officers to search vehicles without a required warrant. Some of these loopholes include:
1. You Give Law Enforcement Permission
If a police officer asks to search your vehicle and you say yes, they do not need a warrant to do so. If you give them permission and they find something illegal in your vehicle during their search, it can be used in court against you, even though no warrant was obtained.
2. Law Enforcement Saw Something Illegal in Your Vehicle in Plain View
If you have an illegal drug or weapon in plain sight, law enforcement will not require a warrant to move forward with a search. Alcohol or marijuana applies to this as well. If the police officer recognizes the odor, it provides them with the right to search your vehicle.
3. Law Enforcement Has Probable Cause
This is where law enforcement knows specific facts that would usually cause them to obtain a search warrant. But, knowing the facts in certain circumstances falls under what’s known as vehicle exception. Vehicle exception exists for two main reasons:
- Vehicles can be quickly moved, unlike buildings, and evidence can be lost or removed while a police officer is in the process of obtaining a search warrant.
- An individual in a vehicle has a decreased expectation of privacy when compared to an individual in a home.
Probable cause may include things like viable information that a vehicle has evidence of a specific crime.
One common example of probable cause is when law enforcement proceeds to a parked vehicle and the driver takes off suddenly in order to avoid speaking with the officer. This would then be deemed by the officer as “suspicious behavior.”
4. Your Vehicle is Impounded and You’re Arrested
Once law enforcement formally arrests you, they can search your vehicle without a warrant. If your vehicle is impounded for any reason, the same applies.
Police can perform an inventory search as part of impounding a vehicle. If they find anything illegal during their search, then what they find may be used against you in court.
Call the Skilled San Diego Criminal Defense Attorneys at Dod Law Today
It can be complicated trying to fight back against an improper search. Fortunately, our knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers here at Dod Law are here to help. If you’ve been pulled over by law enforcement in San Diego and require a defense strategy, or simply have questions, contact us right away. We are well-versed in the defense laws surrounding California search warrants and are here to assist you in any way we can to help you avoid the serious consequences that can result from a conviction.