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What should I say if police ask to search my car?

| Jan 19, 2018 | Blog |

Many people in the Syracuse area believe they must allow law enforcement to search their cars when asked. You, however, might believe they only need a warrant to legally search your vehicle. You should think carefully about what you say to the police. Giving them permission to search your vehicle during a traffic stop when it is not necessary could lead to criminal charges

It is important for you to understand your rights and how they pertain to legal and illegal searches. Law enforcement officials have a lot of authority, but it is unlawful for them to violate your rights. It is not uncommon for some police officers to overstep their bounds and ignore your rights. Here are some things for you to consider when law enforcement asks to search your vehicle. 

They must have probable cause 

Getting pulled over for a traffic infraction, such as speeding or driving with a broken brake light is not sufficient enough cause for the police to want to search your vehicle. Everyone does not always receive fair or lawful treatment when they encounter law enforcement. Unless there is evidence in your vehicle that is in plain sight, clues that indicate you have been involved in some criminal activity or the police have a search warrant, any search officers perform could be a direct violation of your rights. 

Be mindful of what you say 

Sometimes, law enforcement officers ask questions to coerce incriminating evidence from unsuspecting people. You do not have to answer every question they ask. Greet the officer, and provide her or him with your name, vehicle’s registration, insurance and your driver’s license when asked. Keep in mind anything you say or do can and will be used against you in court. Take advantage of your Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating yourself. When the officer asks, “ Do you know why I pulled you over or how fast you were going?”, you should say “No.” 

When asked to search your vehicle, you are under no obligation to agree. The Fourth Amendment gives you the right to refuse search requests. This includes physical searches of your body. Any refusal you give should be verbal. You should never resort to physical resistance. If they search your vehicle after you refuse, all evidence obtained from that search may become inadmissible. 

Do not allow yourself to feel intimidated or tricked by law enforcement into giving them permission to search your car. If you find yourself facing criminal charges and believe you are the victim of an unlawful search and seizure, you might want to speak to an attorney for guidance.

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George F. Hildebrandt

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