Understanding when police can legally search a car
These days, more and more people feel concerned about police in Arizona and elsewhere. Citizens need to understand their rights, so they can exercise and protect them.
If a person is ever pulled over, Flex Your Rights explains when the police have permission to search that individual’s vehicle. Understanding essential facts can keep a bad situation from needlessly spiraling out of control.
Understanding probable cause
It is probable cause that gives police the legal right to search a person’s vehicle without permission. That means an officer needs solid evidence of a crime connected to the driver. For instance, if the police pull a person over and spot an illegal substance in plain sight in the passenger seat, they can search the car. Just because a person ran a red light does not give an officer legal leeway to search the vehicle.
Sidestepping confusion and police pressure
If an officer does not have probable cause, she or he may try to get the driver to give express verbal permission to search the vehicle. It is the Fourth Amendment that protects American citizens from unreasonable searches, notes The News Wheel. Someone who feels she or he has nothing to hide and has not done anything wrong may not see the harm in allowing the police to search her or his vehicle. Despite that, it is best to refuse a search if the officer does not have probable cause. There is no telling what the officer’s true intentions or motivations are.
Despite a driver’s verbal and repeated refusal to consent to a vehicle search, an officer may do so anyway. Under such circumstances, the driver should not stop the officer, but instead, record the violation with a smartphone and file a misconduct report.