Can they search the car if I didn’t give consent?

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Can they search the car if I didn’t give consent?

I was pulled over for operating an unregistered vehicle. I complied with the police every step of the way and they asked me to step out of the vehicle. I did and they asked me if they could search the car. I told them very politely that I did not consent to a search. Right after they arrested me without reading me my rights and told me that they would have to impound my car. I asked if I could call a friend to come tow it and they said no because I could be calling somebody to hurt them. They say me in the police car and started to search my car. I stated again that I did not consent to a search and the officer said they had to do inventory. I watched as they searched under the hood and in the trunk as well as the car. The officer came back during the middle of the search and asked if I smoked marijuana. I told him no and he said he smelled it in the car which is impossible because I don’t and nobody that has been in my car does. They also ran all my camera gear and electronics over the radio to see if they were stolen. The next day I picked up my car from impound and saw the took my glove box clean off. Can they do this?

Asked on June 27, 2016 under Criminal Law, Texas

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

The police can search a car per an inventory policy if they follow their written procedures for inventory.  The police can also search a car if they have probable cause.
In your case, the validity of the inventory search will depend on their policy.  If the policy permitted their actions, then it will be upheld as a valid inventory policy.  If they violated their own policy, then that part of the search could be thrown out.
If the officer smelled marijuana in your vehicle and had another detail or two, the officer may have had probable cause to search your vehicle.... it sounds like they were on the right track, but they would need to develop a couple of more details to really make it stick.
As far as the damage to your car, if they damage your property, they have a duty to put in back in the same condition as it was prior to the search. 
To supress the search, you will need to hire an attorney to review the video and offense report and see if the search was proper.  They can also help you lodge a complaint for the damage to your vehicle.


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