Do I Have to Let Police Search My Car? Understanding Your Rights

Trafficlawyer kansas city - Do I Have to Let Police Search My Car?

If you are pulled over by the police and they ask you to search your car, you always have a right to refuse. In some situations, such as when emergency circumstances or probable cause exists, police will still be able to search your car without your consent (or a warrant). However, it is often still advantageous to refuse consent, as it may give your lawyer a basis to later suppress any evidence obtained from the search in court.

What is Probable Cause?

Under Missouri law, probable cause to search a vehicle exists when an officer has good reason to believe that a crime was committed in the vehicle and/or that evidence of a crime is contained in the vehicle. For instance, if an officer smells marijuana when you open your window, the officer likely has probable cause to believe there is marijuana in the vehicle (i.e. evidence of smoking marijuana and of being under the influence while driving). Probable cause must be found based on the totality of the facts and circumstances and cannot be based on a hunch or gut-feeling.

Tips if Police Want to Search Your Car:

  • Stay Calm

  • Police Have to Have Probable Cause to Search

  • Your Consent Validates Their Search

  • It is to Your Advantage to Refuse Consent but They May Find Probable Cause and Do It Anyway

What to Do if Police Ask to Search Your Vehicle 

The most helpful thing you can do in this situation is to stay calm. Remember, even if it sounds like the police are not making a request to search your vehicle, they are. If they have probable cause to search, they will likely just search your car. If they say something like, “You don’t have anything to hide, do you? Mind if I take a look?” Know that this is a sneaky way of the officer asking for consent to search because they do not have the probable cause that they need to search without your consent. 

Your consent is a powerful thing because when you grant it, it automatically makes the search valid. There is no harm in refusing consent even if the officers subsequently determine that they have the probable cause to search your car without it, so it is usually best to err on the side of caution and protect your rights. If the probable cause officers used to justify searching your car does not hold up in court, any evidence they found as a result of it will be thrown out. However, if you agreed to a search when officers told you they would end up searching your car because they have probable cause anyway, then the evidence will not be thrown out because your consent validated the search.

Contact an Experienced Kansas City Lawyer

If your rights have been violated through an improper search and seizure, or you have received a speeding ticket in Missouri, it is important to contact an experienced Kansas City Speeding Ticket Attorney as soon as possible. Aimee the Attorney has been trusted to handle hundreds of traffic court cases every year. In many cases, she can get your moving violation reduced to a non-moving violation to keep your driving record clean. Schedule your free consultation today to find out how she can help you.

Aimee Gromowsky

Aimee Gromowsky is formerly an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Jackson County and currently a private practice lawyer. Ms. Gromowsky handles thousands of cases in Kansas City, Missouri area courts and was honored with a “Best in Bar” award in 2007 and 2008 from the Kansas City Business Journal. As a Kansas City traffic lawyer, Aimee is determined to represent you in your case by providing exceptional legal counsel and service.