Getting pulled over by the police can be an anxiety inducing situation. When you are pulled over on the side of the road, it is more than likely due to the fact that you were either speeding, your car registration has not been updated, you ran a red light, violated some minor traffic law, or have one of your head or taillights out. However, it could be the case that you are pulled over for whatever reason and a police officer asks to search your car.
Technically, the fourth amendment in the Constitution states that no officer or government official can search your car. This is explicitly stated as “unreasonable searches and seizures.” Therefore, it can become extremely confusing as to what a “reasonable” search and seizure would be, and what it would look like.
You might be thinking, “wait… don’t police officers need a warrant to search my car?
Unfortunately, this is a “yes and no” kind of answer, and we will tell you why…
In order for an officer to search your car without a warrant, they must have probable cause that you have committed a crime or have been involved with seemingly suspicious activity. More so often than not, they will only do this after they have run your license plate and driver’s license through their system.
In other cases, they have probably cause and do not need a warrant if they smell things like weed permeating throughout the vehicle when you do not possess a medical marijuana card or other reason to legally possess a controlled or illegal substance.
Another example would be if there is a firearm in your vehicle that is visible to the officer. If you do not provide them with a concealed-carry permit, the officer then has enough reasonable and probable cause to search your vehicle without needing a warrant.