The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. For a lot of folks, their first experience with their Fourth Amendment rights will come behind the wheel of car when they’ve been pulled over by the police for suspicion of DUI or for a traffic violation. If you’ve been pulled over and the police ask you whether they can search your vehicle, failing to understand and appropriately exercise your rights could wind up seriously damaging your defense if you are arrested and charged with a crime based on what was found during the search.
Valid Vehicle Searches
Generally speaking, a police officer may only search your vehicle under one of the following circumstances:
- The officer has a valid search warrant.
- The officer has probable cause to believe there are illegal goods in the vehicle, such as smelling marijuana or seeing a weapon or drugs in plain view.
- You are being arrested and they are impounding the car.
- You consent to the search.
If the cops do not have a search warrant or probable cause to examine the inside of your vehicle and you did not consent to a search, any evidence of criminal activity obtained during the search will likely be suppressed by a judge if criminal charges are brought against you. However, if you consent to the search, you are essentially and unnecessarily forfeiting these possible defenses.
Consenting To a Police Search of Your Car Can Be a Grave Mistake
Many Georgia residents automatically consent to a vehicle search after being pulled over for a simple traffic offense because they do not know they have the right to refuse the search. Similarly, they may feel intimidated by the officer or feel that refusing the officer’s request will make them appear guilty or get them into more trouble. This is a serious mistake with potentially devastating consequences, especially when there is evidence of illegal activity inside of the vehicle. You should never hesitate to respectfully exercise your constitutional rights – never give consent to a vehicle search.
The lawfulness and constitutionality of a vehicle search is often a key issue in a criminal case, in drug possession cases in particular. But if you consent to a search, anything found in your vehicle (and your consent covers your entire vehicle) will be used against you in your criminal case and your lawyer will have little if any ability to challenge the admissibility of such evidence.
Quite simply, if you consent to a police search of your vehicle when you get pulled over, you are hobbling any criminal defense before it starts and putting yourself at an increased risk of conviction. While a good defense attorney can overcome this hurdle and still mount a powerful and successful defense, by not consenting to a vehicle search, you are giving yourself a much better chance of overcoming any charges arising from the search.
Alan Welch: Your Brunswick and Southeast Georgia DUI and Traffic Defense Lawyer
If you’re facing a DUI charge or have been charged with a traffic offense, give me a call today at (912) 265-9811 for a free consultation. Together, we’ll work to preserve your driving privileges as we develop the best defense strategy for your particular case. I look forward to speaking with you.
This article has been prepared by J. Alan Welch Law for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.