Can the police legally search a parked vehicle if the driver/owner was not present?

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Can the police legally search a parked vehicle if the driver/owner was not present?

A family members vehicle was parked in a residential
area. They were in the house but there were three
passengers in the vehicle. Two police officers
approached the vehicle, I’m not sure of their initial
reason for approaching, but upon their arrival they
allegedly witnessed the passengers smoking
marijuana. Does this give them probable cause to
search the vehicle?

Asked on July 18, 2016 under Criminal Law, Michigan

Answers:

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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Probable cause is a reasonable belief that criminal activity is afoot which was clearly established when the police saw the passengers smoking marijuana. This provided probable cause to search the vehicle.
No search warrant is needed to search a vehicle because by the time the police obtain a warrant and return to the scene, the vehicle and contraband it may contain would be gone.


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