Getting pulled over by police in Tennessee can be intimidating, but while you are temporarily detained for a traffic violation, you still have constitutional rights. If you have been stopped for an infraction, then you must give the officer your license, insurance and registration if asked. The officer may also ask if they can search your vehicle, but they can only do so under certain circumstances.
If the officer wishes to search your vehicle without your consent, they must have permission from a judge to do so in the form of a warrant. If the officer has a warrant, then he or she does not need your permission to search the vehicle.
If the officer wishes to search your vehicle without a warrant, then there must be “probable cause.” In other words, there must be a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being, or has been, committed. The standards for which an officer can employ a probable cause search are rooted in the Fourth Amendment.
Know your rights
The best drivers are informed drivers. Knowing your legal rights as a motorist can help you have an informed conversation with the officer who pulled you over. It can also keep you from being unnecessarily searched or harassed. It is best to cooperate with the police to the degree that it is legally required. You may agree to actions with which you feel comfortable but avoid consenting to a search without a warrant or probable cause.
Should you decline to give consent for a search, politely do so and recite the law that you are using to refuse consent. If the officer insists, make sure to document the encounter in the event that you decide to sue at a later time. It is your First Amendment right that allows you to record without interfering in the investigation.