Searching cars is a common practice for law enforcement that serves as a way to gather evidence and solve crimes as they come upon potential crimes. However, not all car searches are legal. The police cannot search your car without reason. If you have been a victim of an illegal car search, it’s important to know your rights.
What are Car Searches?
A car search is the act of inspecting or examining a vehicle by law enforcement with the intent of finding evidence of a crime. This can include searching for:
- Stolen property
- Any other items that may be considered illegal
When is a Car Search Legal?
According to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, American citizens have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. This means that for a car search to be legal, law enforcement must have probable cause or a valid warrant.
What is Probable Cause?
Probable cause refers to the belief that a crime has been committed and there is evidence of it. In the case of car searches, the evidence is believed to be in the vehicle. Probable causes can include:
- Witnessing illegal activity and/or smelling drugs or alcohol
- Seeing contraband in plain sight
A valid warrant, on the other hand, is a court order that gives law enforcement officials the legal right to search a vehicle.
When Probable Cause Isn’t Needed
There are also certain situations where law enforcement officials do not need probable cause or a warrant to conduct a car search. These include:
- Consent: If the driver gives consent for the search, then it is considered legal.
- Inventory searches: These are conducted when a vehicle is impounded and are primarily to protect any valuable items in the vehicle. However, if illegal items are found during this type of search, they can be used as evidence.
Who Can Conduct Car Searches?
Car searches can only be conducted by law enforcement officials who have been authorized to do so. This typically includes police officers, state troopers, and federal agents. Private investigators or security guards do not have the legal right to conduct car searches.
What to Do After an Illegal Car Search
If you believe that you have been a victim of an illegal car search, it is important to take the following steps:
- Remain calm: It can be intimidating and frustrating to be subjected to an illegal car search, but it’s important to remain calm and cooperative.
- Record details: Take note of the date, time, location, and any other relevant information about the search. This can help you and your attorney build a case against the law enforcement officials involved.
- Seek legal representation: It’s important to consult with our experienced criminal defense attorney, who can advise you on your rights and how to proceed.
- File a complaint: If you believe your rights were violated during the car search, you can file a complaint with the appropriate authorities. If you are being charged with a crime, the fact that you were subjected to an illegal car search is a strong defense we can use.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorney at Pike Law
Car searches can be an effective tool in law enforcement, but they must be conducted within the boundaries of the law. If you believe that you were subjected to an illegal car search, it’s important to know your rights and protect them. By understanding what constitutes a legal car search and who has the authority to conduct one, you can better protect yourself and your rights.
For legal representation and information, contact the criminal defense attorney at Pike Law. No one’s rights should ever be violated, much less arrested based on ‘evidence’ gathered while your rights were being violated.
If you have been arrested after an illegal car search, contact our attorney today.