There are Only Four Scenarios Where the Police Can Legally Look for Drugs in Your Car
Most people believe that the police have a right to search their vehicle any time they are pulled over for a traffic stop. This is false. The police can only legally search a person’s vehicle in four circumstances. If they do search your vehicle, and it is not under one of these circumstances, it is a violation of your 4th Amendment rights. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately if this occurs.
1. The Police Have Probable Cause
The police can search a vehicle if during a traffic stop, they see illegal drugs or contraband in plain sight or if a trained drug detection dog alerts that there are illegal drugs present in the vehicle. If the police have probable cause that illegal drugs are in the vehicle, they do not need a warrant to search a vehicle.
2. The Driver Consents
If the police ask and the driver consents, then the police can legally search the driver’s vehicle, including the trunk, engine, or any other area.
3. The Police Have a Search Warrant
If the police have obtained a search warrant, they can search a vehicle. The driver does not have to give consent if a warrant has been obtained for drugs.
4. The Police are Doing an Inventory Subsequent to arrest
The police sometimes impound a vehicle after charging someone with a DUI or making an arrest of the driver of a vehicle. Before the car is towed and impounded, the police may inventory the contents of the vehicle. This is a legal procedure and does not require a warrant to search the vehicle.
How to Respond to the Police If You Have Drugs in Your Car
Do Not Try to Escape
As soon as a police officer flashes their lights, you should slow down and begin looking for a safe place to pull over. Remain in your car and wait for the police officer to come to you. Getting out of your car or speeding away will give the officer just cause to charge you with evading arrest. Hopefully, all the officer will do is give you a speeding ticket or a warning and send you on your way.
Keep Your Hands Where the Officer Can See Them
Putting your hands in your pockets, under the seat, or reaching for the glove compartment while an officer is still approaching the vehicle gives them pause for concern. Many officers will report that they saw a furtive movement and were worried the driver might have a weapon. This is one of the most common reasons police officers use to search a vehicle.
Be Polite to the Officer
Speaking politely with an officer and showing respect has a better chance of keeping the police from searching your car than acting aggressive. However, being polite does not mean that you should answer yes if they ask if you have anything illegal in the car.
Do Not Allow the Police to Search Your Car
The police must acquire consent from the driver before they can search a vehicle, or they must have probable cause or a search warrant. If they are asking to search your vehicle, you can and should refuse to let them search your vehicle. It doesn’t matter what threats are made, do not allow them to search your vehicle. Officers are not allowed to extend the normal length of a traffic stop to retrieve a K-9 or a warrant.
Do Not Admit to Anything
If the police do have probable cause, search your vehicle, and find drugs in your car, do not admit to anything. The police are building a case against you to hand over to the prosecutor. Remain silent when it comes to having knowledge of the drugs, where they came from, or even what the drugs are. It is the police’s job to affirmatively link the drugs to you and prove your intent with them.
Jesse Kalter has Defended Hundreds of Defendants with Drug Possession Charges
The police have a strict set of procedures to follow when searching someone’s car. They don’t always follow it. Drugs that are obtained illegally by the police cannot be admitted as evidence in a Nevada court against you. Jesse Kalter has the experience and knowledge to effectively fight these charges. He has earned his client’s numerous “not-guilty” verdicts over the span of his legal career. He is available to serve the people of Reno, Sparks, Carson City, Fallon, Fernley, Dayton, Yerington, Douglas County, and all other Northern NV rural counties.