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Can the Police Search My Car Without a Warrant?

 Posted on December 09,2022 in Criminal Defense

Knoxville, TN criminal defense lawyerIt is important for every American to understand their rights and responsibilities under state and federal law. One of the most important rights we have is the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Many criminal charges result from police searches. If you or a loved one are facing charges for drug possession or any other criminal offense after a vehicle search, contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer for help.

Know the Law Regarding Vehicle Searches

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits unjustified searches of personal property. However, it can be hard to know when a search is justified. The law also applies differently to vehicles than it does to homes or other types of personal property. Police usually need a search warrant to search your home, but vehicles are exempt from the search warrant requirement.

Generally, police have the right to search your car, truck, van, or other vehicle under the following circumstances:

  • Consent – During a traffic stop, police officers may say something like, “Do you mind if I take a look around?” This is a roundabout way of asking for permission to search your vehicle. You have the right to say “no” to this request. However, the police may search your vehicle anyway.

  • Probable cause – If there is probable cause to believe evidence of a crime or illegal materials are in the vehicle, the police are authorized to search the car. For example, the smell of alcohol in the vehicle may indicate that there are open containers of alcohol and prompt a search.

  • Illicit items in plain view – If there are drugs, drug paraphernalia, weapons, or other illegal items in plain view of officers, they are authorized to conduct a vehicle search.

  • Search necessary for protection – Police may search a vehicle if they reasonably believe that a vehicle search is needed for their own protection. For example, if police believe you have an illegal firearm concealed in your car, they may be able to conduct a warrantless search without your consent.

  • Search upon arrest – If you are arrested for a crime, the police generally have the right to search your car.

Illegal Search and Seizure Involving Motor Vehicles

If police do not have permission, probable cause, a search warrant, or other lawful reason to search a car, the search may be illegal. Any evidence obtained in an illegal search is generally not admissible in criminal proceedings. So, if police discovered drugs or other illegal items in your car but there was no justifiable reason to search the car in the first place, any criminal charges resulting from the search may be dismissed altogether.

Contact a Knox County Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, contact experienced Knoxville criminal defense attorney Jeffrey Coller for help. Call 865-281-1000 for a free consultation and case evaluation.


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