Can Police Search Your Car for Drugs Without Your Permission?
When the police pull you over on the roadside, sometimes they can search your car for drugs without your permission. Vehicle searches are legal under some circumstances if you are being arrested. Also, the police can do a search if they have probable cause to believe that a crime is being committed. Finally, they can seize any item in plain view.
Search Incident to Arrest
When you are being arrested for driving under the influence of drugs, DUI, or another crime on the roadside, the police can search your car if:
- They reasonably believe evidence of the crime you committed can be found in the vehicle, or
- You are on the run or not handcuffed and could still access the inside of the car.
Police can only search the passenger compartment, not the trunk (unless it is already open). They must search only areas that could be within your reach. For example, if the police suspect someone of smoking marijuana while driving because they catch a whiff when he rolls down the window, they could search the dashboard and passenger seat, and other areas within the driver’s reach, for drugs and other evidence.
If police have probable cause to believe that you have committed a crime, they can search the entire car for evidence. For example, an officer could receive a report that a certain car hit a pedestrian and was weaving all over the road. If the officer sees a car nearby matching the description and observes it weaving, he could pull the driver over. After he pulls the driver over, he could search the car, including the trunk, for evidence that the driver was impaired.
Probable cause can arise before or after a car is pulled over. However, the police cannot have begun searching you or the car before developing probable cause.
Frequently, police see evidence of a crime in plain view during traffic stops. They might catch a glimpse of a drug pipe or an open beer can inside the car. In that case, the police can seize the item that is in plain view.
To learn more about car searches for people charged with drug crimes and DUIs, seek out the local criminal attorney who cares about seeking the best outcomes for his clients. Clint Patterson, Esq. of Patterson Law Firm is a former Tulsa prosecutor who helps drivers in need of legal advice. Schedule a case evaluation by visiting Patterson Law Firm online or calling Clint’s office at (918) 550-9175.