Can an officer search your car without permission and without a warrant?

Asked on July 30, 2015 under Criminal Law, Michigan


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Typically, the constitution protects individuals from unlawful searches and seizures. Consequently in order to perform a search of a car, the police need either a warrant or consent. However there are exceptions to this. First, an officer who has "probable cause" if they have reason to believe the car contains evidence related to a crime. A routine traffic stop can result in probable cause to search a vehicle if the officer notices contraband or evidence of contraband in the vehicle. Second, when police make a lawful arrest, the officer may search not only the arrested person but also the area immediately around the arrested person. This can include the car that the person was traveling in just prior to the arrest. That having been said, this only applies if the person is actually arrested. If the driver is only given a traffic ticket, the police cannot search the vehicle.

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