Generally speaking police need probable cause to search a car in a traffic stop. If there is no traffic stop they usually need a warrant. The Fourth (4th) Amendment of the United States Constitution and the North Carolina State Constitution both protect everyone from unreasonable search and seizure. Everyone has the right to refuse any search and should in fact refuse all requests to search a vehicle. If you give consent to search you usually waive your right to later challenge any search at trial.
What should I say when the officer keeps asking to search my car?
Just politely refuse as many times as they ask. Don’t give in no matter how many times they ask or what they say. Even if they say they are going to hold you for dogs to arrive to sniff your car you should still refuse any search.
Can the police use a dog to sniff around my car?
Police can use drug sniffing dogs if on hand, but can’t extend a traffic stop to call in a K-9 unit. In 2015, in a 6-3 decision the US Supreme Court ruled in Rodriguez vs. United States that police can’t extend traffic stops for even a “de minimis” or short amount of time without reasonable suspicion for reasons unrelated to vehicle or driver safety.
What if the officer says they will hold me to get a warrant to search my car?
Tell him or her you will wait- most of the time this threat is usually a bluff to intimidate you into giving permission to search. Even if they do obtain a warrant you can challenge the basis for that warrant in Court at a later date.
If I have nothing to hide why should I refuse a search?
You should always refuse a search so you do not waive your right to later challenge the search In Court. Other reasons to refuse a search include:
Will refusing a search make me look guilty?
Perhaps an officer will assume the worst, but refusing a search cannot be used against you later in Court.
What may give an officer “probable cause” to search my car?
When can police search my trunk?
A car trunk is usually a separate compartment to which the driver does not have access from the driver seat making it more difficult for police to justify a search. Usually the Court will consider the totality of the circumstances to decide whether any search of a car trunk was lawful.
Can an officer order me to get out of my car?
Usually an officer can demand you get out of your car after a stop. If they ask you to exit your vehicle it is best to do so, or else things may go from bad to worse very quickly.
What should I do if pulled over?
Remain calm and polite. Don’t give the officer an excuse to say you were acting suspicious such as smoking a cigarette, chewing gum, or asking a lot of questions. Your best bet is to roll the window down, turn the vehicle off, turn off the radio, and keep your hands on the wheel. Never ask or demand to know why you were stopped- if they ask you- tell them you don’t know or else they may say you admitted to speeding or running a light. Finally, never argue about the speed they claim they “clocked” you at or ask for a reduction at the scene. Usually your best chance for a reduction at the scene is to say VERY little, while remaining calm and polite.
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