Seeing flashing lights in your rearview mirror can be a startling experience. You may be unsure if you pushed the limit and had too many drinks before heading home, or you may worry that you committed some other traffic violation.
Once the officer walks up to your vehicle, it can be challenging to remember your rights and how to handle the situation. Then, when the officer asks permission to look inside your car, you may think that saying “yes” is the simplest way to get home faster.
Here’s what you should know about allowing an officer to search your vehicle.
Wait for a warrant
For the most part, police need a warrant before searching your car for evidence of a crime. To get a warrant, the officer needs to demonstrate probable cause to a judge.
Rather than going through the process of getting a warrant, police will often ask permission. When you agree to a search, the officer no longer needs a warrant, and they can look through your entire vehicle.
Yes, even if you have nothing to hide
You may be tempted to go along with a search because you believe that you have nothing to hide. However, when an officer is searching your vehicle, they may find evidence such as:
- Scent of drugs
- Illegal items a friend left in your vehicle
- Receipts indicating recent alcohol purchases
These items could give the officer the information they need to make an arrest and pursue criminal charges. While insisting on a warrant may not let you go home, it is an essential step for protecting your rights and privacy.