Although the Morgan Law Firm focuses exclusively on divorce and family law, we also like to provide our readers with sound tips on how to handle common legal issues that arise. Today’s guest post is on what to do when the police ask to search your vehicle and it is by Virginia lawyer Andrew Flusche, who focuses on helping drivers fight their Virginia reckless driving tickets. He also wrote the highly-rated consumer book, Fight Your Virginia Reckless Driving Ticket. Find Andrew on Google+. Let’s hear from Andrew:
Even people who don’t normally have run ins with the police may have an occasion where the police ask to search their vehicle. Let’s say you’re pulled over for a routine traffic violation, and the officer decides to fish for something more. He’ll ask “You don’t have any drugs or weapons, do you?” Once you answer “No,” he’ll ask, “Then you don’t mind if I search?”
What do you say?
“No, you do not have my permission to search.”
It’s that simple. Under no circumstance should you consent to a police to search your vehicle.
Consent removes possible legal challenge
Probable cause is a legal standard that the police must usually have in order to search your vehicle. There are plenty of exceptions to this, and it can vary from state to state; however, the general rule is that in order to search your vehicle, the police need to have probable cause of some type of crime or contraband.
If the police don’t have a legal reason to search, the normal remedy is that they cannot use the evidence they found against you in court. If they find a little marijuana blunt that a friend left in your vehicle and they didn’t have a legal reason to search, then we should be able to beat the charge.
However, if you consent to the police search, they do not need any reason to search. They can search for no reason at all, simply because you allowed them into your vehicle. In many cases, they may have a great reason to search, and we may not have any challenge, but at least we have a chance to examine whether or not they had a valid reason to search and see if we can argue to suppress any evidence they found.
You’re exercising your rights
You have the Constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search and seizures. This is the right to be free of unwarranted intrusion by the police. You should assert that right just as you assert your right to vote and your right to have free speech. All these are rights are protected under the U.S. Constitution, and you should assert them.
This doesn’t mean you should be rude to the officer; however, you should say “no, you may not search.” It’s polite, it’s firm, and it’s clear that they do not have your permission.
You never know what may be in your vehicle
I handle a lot of Virginia reckless driving and Virginia DUI cases for clients, and I’m always astounded at the people who have no clue what’s in their car. And for a lot of my cases for possession of marijuana in Virginia my clients will say that they had no clue marijuana was in the vehicle. I believe many of them, because the police just found some seeds or buds in the floorboard.
Some people don’t keep their cars very clean. There is all sorts of trash and different things in the vehicle that make it difficult to see what’s in the vehicle. When the police are looking for contraband, they’re going to look under all that stuff. They’re going to turn over every piece of trash and try to see if there’s anything that they can prove is contraband, and you never know what may be under all that debris. You can’t be sure if there’s anything under there.
It’s the smart thing to do
Given the extreme risk of allowing a police search, it’s only smart to refuse their ability to search. Protect your right, protect the possible challenge down the road, and refuse the search. Simply say “no thank you, you may not search my vehicle.”
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