Police officers can search your car for many reasons. If you are arrested for any kind of traffic violation such as a DUI, your vehicle will most likely be impounded if nobody can retrieve it. Additionally, illegally parking/abandoning your vehicle risks impoundment. In any case where a vehicle is legally impounded, police officers almost always have the right to search the vehicle.
After a lawful arrest, an inventory search can be done on your vehicle. While this search isn't to look for illegal possession of substances or firearms, the search is done to retrieve or make note of property that belongs to you. If contraband is however found during an inventory search of your vehicle, it can be used against you. Another reason for inventory searches is that police have the right to search for anything in a vehicle that could potentially endanger their lives. In Florida, police officers can take inventory of any object in plain view or that is apparent to the naked eye.
Can I Fight an Inventory Search?
If your vehicle was impounded and evidence of a crime was found, you can contest the search with an experienced criminal defense attorney. If won, the evidence may not be admissible in court. Some reasons for an inventory search to be illegal is if:
- The car was not legally impounded
- It is clear the inventory search was conducted to perform an illegal warrantless search
- The impoundment was unnecessary if the vehicle could have remained in place or been retrieved by another individual
- The scope of the search exceeded the justification of prevention of theft
When Can the Police Search My Car?
Your vehicle on a public road has fewer rights than yourself as an individual or your home on private property. While you may have fewer rights when you are in a car, you are still protected against unreasonable searches. By law, warrantless searches are only allowed when:
- An inventory search must be conducted
- A search incident to arrest which allows a search of the immediate vicinity of a driver (anywhere driver can reach in a vehicle) if the driver is considered to be under arrest
- A probable cause search due to the belief that there may be a weapon or other contraband that may have been used in a crime
Should I Consent to a Vehicle Search?
If a police officer knows they do not have a legal basis to search your vehicle, they may ask for consent to do so. You are never forced to consent to a search and you can say "no". If the officer believed they had grounds to conduct a search, they would do so without asking. By consenting to a search of a vehicle, you may be unnecessarily incriminating yourself of a crime.
Determining if a vehicle search was improper is difficult. If you've been stopped or even arrested by a police officer and your vehicle was searched, you should always question your rights and options. Consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney at The Law Offices of Matthew Konecky, P.A. can help prove if the search is warranted to help you beat the charge(s). If your vehicle was searched, call us immediately at (561) 671-5995 or click here to contact us.