Is it legal for the police to get you out of a car and search you’re while asleep?

My boyfriend fell asleep in the car while at a gas station. The police came and woke him up and asked him to exit the car. They found drugs and a weapon, which I know is illegal. However, was it legal for the police to search him just because he was asleep in the car?

Asked on November 10, 2018 under Criminal Law, Ohio


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

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

If the keys were in the car, then sleeping in it would give a policeman “reasonable suspicion” that your boyfriend was under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol while he operated the car when getting to the gas station. In that case, they were not only allowed to, but obligated to ask him to exit the car to further assess his level of influence. And driving while being under the influence is a crime. As to the search itself, the law is that the police may search a vehicle if there is probable cause to believe that it contains evidence of criminal activity; in this case possibly drugs. Accordingly, it can be argued that the search was legal. At this point, your boyfriend needs to consult directly with a local criminal law attorney ASAP.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

It was legal if the situation suggested that he was likely under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which would be a crime if he had been or necessarily had been operating a vehicle. People do not normally sleep in their cars at a gas station. That he was suggests thatthe was under the influence and drove there while under the influence, which would be a crime. They could therefore legally wake and search him, since it appeared he was engaged in illegal activity, to ascertain if that was the case.

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