Can a police search your car without permission? - Criminal Law Questions and Answers- LawQA.com

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Can a police search your car without permission?

My boyfriend got pulled over and they searched the car without permission. He had a drug charge. Is that just cause?

Answer By David Jolly
The Law Firm of David Jolly
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The police cannot search your vehicle without permission - generally. We are all protected against such things under the Constitution. However, there are limited circumstances when a search such as you describe is permissible (maybe). Such examples include a "plain view search" when the officer looks in the windows of the vehicle at a traffic stop. Another is called a search incident to arrest when they can do a generalized search after arresting an individual. If the search is illegal then anything that comes from the search is suppressed. The officers may have searched the vehicle if they found out your boyfriend had a drug charge - but that does not mean it is legal.

Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 5/26/2011

Answer By Roy L. Reeves
Reeves Law Firm, P.C.
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Search of cars is a touchy subject far too broad to give homage to here, however, I can summarize and hopefully answer your question. A search must be on permission, warrant or upon justified reason. Permission is just that, a person with actual care, custody, or control of the area give the police permission to search. A warrant is a Judge giving permission and the warrant may be challenged for cause - what was the Judge told that made him decide to issue the warrant, where did the information come from, was it reliable, etc. The last one is the crux of many suppression hearings. A cop cannot search the car unless he has a reason. That reason must start with articulable facts gained from the perspective of a person with the right to be there. In other words, a cop pulls BF over for no reason and smells marijuana. Smell of marijuana may or may not be justifiable reason to search - lets assume for this discussion it is - but the cop had no right to pull him over, therefore the cop had no reason to be close enough to the car to smell marijuana and therefore the articulable suspicion fails. The search is no good. Same facts but this time BF was speeding, now the cop has a reason to stop BF, at the stop the cop smells marijuana. Now the stop is legal, the articulable suspicion is good. The analysis does not stop there however. . . . Like I said, too long a subject to discuss here. The simple version is that it is like dominoes set up on end, like you did as a kid, tip one it sets off a chain reaction, that is how search and seizure works. It is a chain of dominoes. If any one domino does not fall, it does not knock down the next and the chain is broken. What the attorney has to determine is if there is a break in the chain. BTW: marijuana has a very distinct smell, court cases have held that a police officer trained to recognize the smell can testify to the existence of the drug based on his training. Cocain however, does not have such a smell, so the answer to your question depends on the drugs found, the reason for the stop, and the reason for the search.

Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 5/17/2011

Law Office of Geoffrey M. Yaryan
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Police cannot search you car unless they have probable cause to do so.

Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 5/16/2011

Answer By Thomas J. Tomko
Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law
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In Michigan, a vehicle can be searched for many reasons. First, there has to be probable casue to stop the vehicle. Next, the vehicle can be searched in the area of the driver for safety of the police officer. Alternatively, there could be permission to search. If there is an arrest, then the vehicle could be subject to an inventory search. I suggest that you retain an attorney to review the particulars of your case. You may contact my office to make an appointment to discuss representation. I hope that this was helpful.

Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 5/14/2011

Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
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The police may search the car if. 1 he gives permission 2 if he is on probation or parole 3 if they have probable cause.

Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 5/13/2011

Anderson & Carnahan
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No, talk to an attorney.

Answer Applies to: Colorado
Replied: 5/13/2011

Howard W. Collins, Attorney at Law
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Good question but much too complex to answer without a lot more detail. You will need to call so we can talk so I can ask questions which may help me answer your question. Unfortunately, the police have a lot of authority to search cars under certain circumstances.

Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 5/13/2011

Law Office of Jonathan T. Sarre
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"Probable cause" is what they need (or a search warrant)," just cause" is something else (and not really a legal term). Under some circumstances the cops can search your car without your permission and often something called the "automobile exception" applies. The idea is that cars are mobile and if the cops have to get a warrant to search the car, the car may have taken off by the time they get back with the warrant. So if the police officer has probable cause to believe he'll find something you're not supposed to have, and the car is mobile, Federal constitutional law allows them to search. Also many jurisdictions allow law enforcement to perform what is known as an "inventory search." For the police to perform an inventory search, however, they have to have made a decision to tow the car for something (like, for example, driving without insurance or driving while suspended). Assuming they have authority to to the car, they can "inventory" the contents of the car for valuables (the idea being to safeguard your property so nothing disappears at the tow lot). The rub is, if they find something you weren't supposed to have, like drugs, they can prosecute you for the stuff they found.

Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 5/13/2011

Answer By Seth J. Bloom
Bloom Legal, LLC
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If the police had probably cause to pull you over then they have the right to search inside the car. They may not, however, open a locked glove compartment or trunk without your permission.

Answer Applies to: Louisiana
Replied: 5/13/2011

Answer By Jules Fiani
Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law
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No, not unless they have a search warrant. You need to call an experienced attorney such as myself.....visit my website for more information regarding how to obtain an experienced, knowledgeable attorney with great reviews.

Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 5/12/2011

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