San Angelo Divorce And Criminal Defense Lawyer Serving West Central Texas

Can police search your car without permission?

On Behalf of | Jun 14, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Understanding when police can search a car without permission is important.

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, but there are situations where police can search a car without permission.

Probable cause

According to NewsNation, police stopped 1.7 million vehicles in Texas in 2022. One of the most common situations for a search involves probable cause. Probable cause means police have a reasonable belief that they will find evidence of a crime in the car. For example, if an officer smells marijuana or sees illegal items in plain view, this can provide probable cause. In these cases, the officer can search the car without needing permission.

Searches during an arrest

Another scenario is during an arrest. If police arrest someone, they can search the car for weapons or evidence related to the arrest. Police can only search areas within the arrested person’s immediate control. For instance, if someone gets arrested for possession of drugs, police can search the areas of the car that are easily accessible to the person.

Impoundment searches

The police can also search a car without permission if they impound it. When the police impound a car, they conduct an inventory search to account for the car’s contents. This ensures the protection of the owner’s property and protects police from claims of lost or stolen items.

Consent searches

Consent is another way police can search a car. If the driver or owner of the car gives permission, police can conduct a search without needing any probable cause or a warrant. It is important to know that individuals have the right to refuse consent. However, if they give consent, the police can use anything found during the search as evidence.

Traffic stops

Traffic stops can also lead to car searches. If police stop a car for a traffic violation, they cannot search the car automatically. However, if the officer develops probable cause during the stop, such as noticing suspicious behavior or illegal items in plain sight, a search can follow.

In any encounter with the police, citizens need to be aware of their rights.