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Car Searches Without a Warrant

Car Searches Without a Warrant

When Is It Legal For the Police To Search My Car?

Most Americans have been stopped by the police in their car, whether it was for speeding, a broken tail light or something worse, we’ve all experienced that dreadful feeling of being caught breaking the law. As Queens criminal defense attorneys, we have heard horror stories of individuals getting pulled over for minor traffic infractions only to wind up with criminal charges all because they did not know their rights.

Depending on your circumstance, if your vehicle was searched by a police officer without a warrant, your rights may have been violated. Our Queens criminal attorney explains below when the police have the right to search your vehicle.

Your Car is a Private Space

According to the Fourth Amendment, people have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizure. The goal of this amendment was to protect the people’s right to privacy and give them freedom from capricious government searches and invasions. The courts eventually extended that private space to include cars, however, a car does not have the same amount of protection against searches that a house does.

When police pull you over for a routine traffic stop, they may ask if you consent to a search. Remember, you have every right to say no at this time. Generally, if a police officer is asking you to consent to a search, it means they do not have a warrant to search the space and need your permission to do so. Even if you think you have nothing to hide, we recommend declining consent to search. The police officer may still search your vehicle anyway, however, our attorneys can argue the search was unconstitutional and any evidence found thereafter the search should not be considered.

When Can the Police Search without a Warrant?

  • Consent – As mentioned above, if you give consent the police do not need a warrant to search your vehicle.
  • Probable Cause – Probable cause is allowed when the police have reasonable suspicion a weapon or evidence of the crime they originally stopped the driver for could be found.
  • Inventory Search – if your vehicle was impounded after an arrest the police will search the vehicle to inventory your items. This is done to prevent any loss or damage done to the vehicle owner’s property.
  • Plain View –The police may also search your car if there is evidence of a crime in plain view. For example, if the police pulled you over and there was blood all over your back seat, they may have probable cause to search your vehicle. Plain view also applies to hearing and smell, meaning if an officer pulls you over, and the officer smells marijuana or alcohol, they will have probably cause to search your vehicle.
  • Search Incident to Arrest – The police may search your vehicle if you are unsecured, and within reaching distance of the passenger compartment at the time the search was conducted.
  • Exigent Circumstances – This exception permits an officer to enter a location or car without a warrant if they believe themselves or another person is in imminent danger.

Were Your Rights Violated by an Unconstitutional Vehicle Search in Queens?

If you believe a police officer violated your rights with an unconstitutional vehicle search, our Queens criminal defense attorneys can help you. Our criminal defense attorneys can aggressively fight for your rights. As a former prosecutor, our attorney understands how the prosecution thinks, and can work with you to build a better defense.

Schedule a free consultation today.


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