Don't Be a Pushover, Just Say No
Jun 01, 2016
Often when someone finds themselves in a situation where they are interacting with law enforcement, they are unsure of their rights and can feel intimidated by law enforcement agents. Even for a self-confident individual, a run-in with police can catch you off balance and put you in unfamiliar territory.
We are going to discuss a situation where someone is involved in a traffic stop and what they should and should not do and how to avoid being subjected to an illegal search of their vehicle.
When being pulled over by the police, a driver needs to be aware that an unreasonable delay in responding to the officer's signal to pull over could result in a charge of evading the police. It is best to pull over as soon as possible and respond to the officer's requests on where to pull over as well.
The officer may ask, for no reason apparent to the driver, if they can search the vehicle. The driver is not required by law to allow that search. In fact, the driver can refuse the search request if the officer does not have a search warrant (they almost never do). Without a search warrant, you can say no without repercussions. A driver can also make stipulations for the search, such as permitting a search of the center console but not the glove compartment, and the officer must adhere to those restrictions.
If the officer has probable cause to search the vehicle, they may do so without driver consent. Probable cause means the officer has seen something that causes him to believe there may be evidence of a crime located in the vehicle or they feel a driver may match the description of a suspect in a crime.
If the driver or a passenger is arrested, the officer may search the vehicle. However, their search is limited to the inside of the car. The trunk cannot be searched and they must obtain a warrant to extend their search to any other area of the vehicle.
A citation or ticket is not an arrest and therefore, just because an officer issued the driver or one of the occupants a ticket, that does not give them the right to conduct a search.
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime as a result of an illegal search of your vehicle you need to contact a criminal lawyer immediately to discuss your case and learn what your rights are under the law.
Michael Mitchell is a Fresno attorney who practices in the areas of DUI, personal injury & criminal law. Visit his Google+ profile.