What you should know about warrantless car searches

The Fourth Amendment generally protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. Law enforcement officers may, however, lawfully search your vehicle after a traffic stop without a warrant depending on the reason for your detention. Law enforcement officers can also lawfully search your vehicle with a warrant provided that you permit them to do so.

The law provides a person with a lower expectation of privacy inside a car versus in their residence. Police officers may conduct a warrantless search of your vehicle provided that they have probable cause that there's evidence related to a crime located inside of it. They may also search your car if they reasonably believe that they need to protect themselves from possible weapons or harm.

Law enforcement officers may also be able to search your vehicle for either drugs or weapons upon your arrest without having to secure a warrant -- although, even then, they may need a warrant to look in a locked trunk or other compartment.

On the other hand, if your car is about to be impounded or is already impounded, the police may enjoy broader leeway. Officers can look inside hidden or locked compartments within the automobile as part of this process. Law enforcement officers may tow your car because you left it in a loading zone, have too many parking tickets or if someone reported the vehicle as stolen -- but they cannot impound your vehicle without just cause as a pretext for a search.

If you're facing criminal charges after a seizure of evidence such as controlled substances from your vehicle, then you should consult with a Cook County lawyer. Your drug charges attorney can review the circumstances surrounding the search and seizure of your vehicle and advise you of defense strategies that you may want to pursue in your Illinois case.

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