Can police search locked compartment of a vehicle on a routine traffic stop without a warrant or consent?

UPDATED: Sep 2, 2011

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Can police search locked compartment of a vehicle on a routine traffic stop without a warrant or consent?

Pulled over for swerving; road was icy. Driver had clean record but registration was from old owner but had bill of sale. Passenger had a traffic warrant and was arrested. Then they searched the vehicle without consent or warrant. Now both driver and passenger have a charge of possession. Should I speak with a criminal law attorney? In Larimer County, CO.

Asked on September 2, 2011 under Criminal Law, Colorado


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The vehicle was searched because the passenger was arrested.  The search of the vehicle was a search incident to an arrest.  A search incident to an arrest does not require a search warrant or consent.  A search incident to an arrest is permissible because there may be items within reach of the person arrested that could endanger the safety of the police or others. 

Also, a search of a vehicle does not require a search warrant because by the time the police obtain a search warrant and return to the scene, the vehicle and/or any contraband may be gone.

It would be advisable to speak with a criminal law attorney.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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