Over the past few years there has been more publicity given to cases in which police were not following proper policies and procedures. This includes situations where police conducted a search of an individual’s vehicle, home or person. However, people often wonder: can the police search me whenever they want? The answer to that is no.
When Can The Police Search Me?
Typically, law enforcement needs a warrant to conduct a search of your vehicle or home. They can, however, search you if probable cause exists. Probable cause does not mean that the officer “thought” that you may be in possession of illegal materials. Probable cause means that the officer physically observed something that raised his suspicions to the level of probable cause.
If a police officer asks if he or she has permission to conduct a search, you are under no obligation to say yes. Often in these situations, if there is probable cause, the officer will not ask if the search can be conducted. If he or she is asking, and you say no, a warrant will have to be issued if in fact a search needs to be conducted.
Just because you are stopped for speeding, or due to suspicion of drunk driving, does not mean an officer can automatically search your vehicle. Again, if you did not give permission and there is no probable cause for a search, the search is illegal and any items that may be recovered during the illegal search are not admissible in court.
The Fourth Amendment
Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, tyou are to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. As such, these rights must be upheld by law enforcement officials. If they have probable cause for a search, or you gave permission for the search, the Fourth Amendment does not apply.
As always, it is your right to remain silent and consult an attorney in any situation involving the police, whether or not you are under arrest. It is generally in your best interests to exercise all of your rights and talk to a lawyer before allowing a search to be conducted, if permission is being requested, or before you say anything to the police.