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Are the police allowed to search your vehicle without a warrant?

On Behalf of | Jul 19, 2023 | Criminal Defense

There’s almost no feeling worse for Tennessee drivers than seeing blue and red lights in their rear-view mirrors. After pulling over for the police, knowing what they can and can’t do regarding vehicle searches is imperative.

A police officer’s right to conduct searches

People with some legal knowledge know that police officers typically need warrants to search properties. It makes sense to assume that a police officer would need a warrant to conduct a vehicle search. Unfortunately for drivers, police don’t need a search warrant for vehicle searches.

However, law enforcement must have more than a hunch to search a vehicle. Here are several situations when the police can legally conduct a vehicle search:

  • You give the police consent to search your vehicle.
  • Illegal items such as drugs, alcohol or firearms are in your vehicle and in plain view.
  • The police believe you’re a threat to their safety.
  • Law enforcement arrests you for a crime.

The results of illegal searches

As shocking as it may seem, many criminal law cases involve illegal searches by law enforcement. Fortunately for the victims of this illegal behavior, anything found during an unlawful vehicle search is inadmissible in court. Even if the police find firearms, drugs and other potentially illegal items, law enforcement can’t use this evidence against you.

It’s advisable to be generally agreeable with law enforcement. However, as a Tennessee resident, you have the right to say no to law enforcement asking to search or take a look around your automobile. Police officers who persist in this matter illegally can face serious legal consequences.

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