The law permits vehicular search and seizure in some cases. However, it doesn’t permit search and seizure when no crime is suspected. Understanding the many variables of the search and seizure process is key to knowing whether or not the police have searched a car without one’s consent.


Do the police need a warrant to search a car?

No. The police do not need a warrant to search a car. The Supreme Court has gone on record in saying that the police can search a vehicle in what is considered reasonable circumstances. The authority is granted to them under Fourth Amendment.

Police can search your vehicle when:

  1. They believe evidence is in your car that is linked to a crime
  2. Your car can be searched if you grant them authority to
  3. You have been arrested and your search is related to that
  4. There is reason to believe that your car has illegal items or stolen goods.

Can a police officer search my car on a routine pullover?

If a person has been pulled over for a minor traffic violation, then the officer should not be allowed to search the car. They are only permitted to search your car in the case of a routine pullover. In the case of a pullover, the officer can search the vehicle if an arrest is made. They are also permitted to search your vehicle if it has been confiscated. Searching a car when it has been confiscated is called inventory search.

How does the concept of “plain view” apply to search and seizures?

The “plain view” standard says that a car can be searched and anything within arm’s reach can also be searched. The standard suggests that the police can basically search one’s belongings in the car. Anything that is considered to be in “plain view” can be seized by the authorities. The concept applies to anything perceived to be under the person’s control. The item the officer is looking for may be stored in an object in plain view.

What are the rights of the passengers?

When a passenger in the vehicle is present during a stop, the officer can extend their privileges to include search both parties. The search can be conducted if it is believed that the person has been legally stopped. The passenger’s rights can be challenged if the stop was believed to be unlawful.

Can the car be searched if it is relocated to another location?

If a party is involved in a crime currently in progress, the vehicle can be searched if relocated. People involved in a crime like an armed robbery incident can be pulled over and have their car searched and seized. The vehicle can be relocated to a safe location and searched. The car can be relocated for safety reasons.

What liberties does an officer have if the person stopped is involved in a crime in progress?

If the person is suspected to be armed and dangerous, the officer can pat down the driver and any passengers on site. The vehicle can be searched if an arrest was made instead of a citation.

Your car can be searched by the authorities, but only in some cases. If the stop was unlawful, the search of a vehicle is considered unlawful. If there is reasonable cause to search the vehicle, then the car can be searched by the authorities. If anything is in “plain view” or under the driver’s control, the police can search it if it is believed that the object of interest is being concealed. The vehicle can be searched if confiscated or transported to another location if an arrest is made.

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Scott Desind

Scott Desind

Scott Desind | Traffic Ticket Attorneys The Traffic Ticket Attorneys, Desind and Klijian, have over 25 years of experience fighting traffic tickets. Our attorneys are well respected and known for their experience in fighting traffic tickets, specialized knowledge of the law and procedures and results by the court personnel, officers, deputies, competitors and clients.