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Vehicle searches without a warrant

Police officers have a strict code they need to follow when dealing with the public. The Constitution protects citizens from illegal searches by the police, which is a crucial element of the legal system.

A warrant allows the police to search something or someplace specific. However, is a warrant necessary to search your vehicle during a police stop? Make yourself familiar with these methods the police may employ to search your car legally without a warrant.

You agree

An officer is going to want to search your car during a traffic stop, and the first attempt at doing so will usually involve your consent. The way a police officer asks the question may make you believe you have to consent, but you do not. If an officer merely asks you to look through your vehicle and you do not want to, you can decline.

They see something on the seat

Officers have keen observation skills. While conversing with you, the officer is quickly glancing around the interior of your car for a sign of something illegal. If you have anything out in plain sight, the officer will have the authority to conduct a search. The "plain sight" rule applies to anything the officer has the possibility of seeing. Things sitting out on the passenger seat, floorboard or center console will count towards giving the police the permission to search.

They arrest you

Once the police have what they need to charge you, they arrest you. As part of the process, officers search your car. This is so the police can make sure there is nothing else in the vehicle that is illegal or could hurt someone. Even if the police take you to jail, an officer will search the car.

Understanding what constitutes a legal search is important. Whether you wind up getting stopped on campus or off, understanding what the police can and cannot do may help.

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