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Is a search warrant needed to search my vehicle?

A big question that some people have when they are pulled over by police is whether it is legal for police to search their vehicle or not. While there are some protections noted in the Fourth Amendment for citizens, there are some special circumstances that might mean police officers can legally search your vehicle.

Do police officers always need a warrant to search my vehicle?

In short, police officers don't always need a warrant to search your vehicle. There are a few instances in which police officers can search your vehicle without a valid search warrant. One of these is if you give the officer consent or permission to search the vehicle. The officer can search your vehicle without a search warrant if you are arrested and if the search is related to your arrest. Your vehicle can be searched without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe that your vehicle contains evidence of a crime. Finally, the officer can search your vehicle without a warrant if it is necessary for the officer's protection.

Can police search my car at the impound?

Police officers can search cars at the impound without needing a warrant. It is illegal, however, for a police officer to tow and impound your car simply so that they can search it without a warrant. If your car is searched while it is impounded, that search can be as comprehensive as the officers desire.

Knowing what is legal and not legal during a search can be difficult. If you think you have been the victim of an illegal search, you should seek out answers. Illegal searches might even have an impact on your criminal defense options.

Source: FindLaw, "Can the Police Legitimately Search My Vehicle Without a Warrant?," accessed July 16, 2015

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