“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, paper, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
IV Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
Anxiety coils in your stomach from the moment you see those red and blue lights flashing in your rear-view mirror. Your mind swarms with the possible reasons for this traffic stop. Did you forget to use your blinker at that last turn? Is one of your brake lights broken? Were you speeding without realizing?
The officer approaches your vehicle and asks to see your driver’s license and proof of insurance. You remain calm and comply with his requests. He takes your information and explains that your left brake light is out. No big deal. Just one moment and he will get you on your way. You wait patiently, hands on the steering wheel as he runs your information from his cruiser. He returns moments later, and before sending you off with a warning to fix the brake light, he asks if you would mind a quick search of your vehicle.
Confused, but while keeping your composure, you respond, “Yes, I do mind if you search my car.”
Refusing to consent to a search of your vehicle during a routine traffic stop is not about obstinacy or disrespect for law enforcement. Polite yet stern refusal to searches is not only your constitutional right, but it may protect you in court later if your refusal goes unheeded and the officer performs a search anyways.
While some police officers may try coercion by way of intimidation or exploitation of a person’s lack of knowledge of their own rights as a tactic to gain your compliance, the fact remains, police do not have the right to search your vehicle without one of three things: a search warrant, probable cause, or your consent.
So how do you handle being asked for consent to a vehicle search?
What is probable cause?
To find out the answers and continue reading this article, click here!