Under what conditions can a vehicle be searched?

We were stopped for having a taillight out. The police found nothing.

Asked on August 5, 2015 under General Practice, South Carolina


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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Under the constitution, citizens of this country are given protection from unlawful searches and seizures. Therefore, in order to search a car an officers must have the driver's and/or owner's consent orthey must have a valid warrant.
However, there aare exceptions to the above. That having been said, there are exceptions. One is that the police have "probable cause" to search if they have reason to believe that a vehicle contains evidence related to a crime. Another is when when a lawful arrest is made in such a situation an officer may search not only the arrested person but also the area immediate around that person which includes the vehicle that the person was traveling in just prior to their arrest.
If you have any further questions, you can consult directly with a criminal law attorney in your area.

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

A vehicle can be searched if the police have probable cause.  Probable cause is a reasonable belief that criminal activity is afoot.

If there is probable cause, the vehicle can be searched without a warrant.  No search warrant is required to search a vehicle because by the time the police obtain a search warrant and return, the vehicle and any contraband it may contain will be gone.

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