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Can the police search my car without a warrant?

At some point, you may have seen someone pulled over at the side of the road while police officers searched the vehicle. The thought that this could happen to you someday may have never crossed your mind. Unfortunately, you and many other Coloradans could face a search of your vehicle for what seems like no good reason. What are your rights when it comes to defending yourself against a search, especially if authorities do not have a warrant?

Usually, authorities do not have the right to search your property without a warrant. This may not stop them from trying to intimidate you into giving in to a warrantless search, however. They may believe that ignorance of the law will cause you to consent to a search without a warrant. If you do consent, you may be providing police with evidence that could be used against you in court.

About the automobile exception rule

However, according to Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute, the automobile exception rule gives authorities the power to search your car without a warrant, under certain circumstances. A legal warrantless search of your vehicle might take place as follows:

  • You are pulled over for a minor violation, such as running a red light or speeding.
  • The officer has probable cause to believe that that the car contains contraband, evidence of a crime, the instrumentalities of a crime, or the fruits of a crime.
  • For example, drug paraphernalia sitting on the passenger seat in plain view would provide sufficient justification for the officer to search the car for illegal drugs.

Whether or not authorities follow through with searching your vehicle during a traffic stop, you have the right to refuse to consent to the search without a warrant. If they continue with the search, you should not attempt to impede their efforts, or they could arrest you for interfering. During this time, it would be wise to invoke your right to remain silent. It is possible that what you say during a traffic stop and search could be used against you if you are charged with a crime.

Have you been charged with a crime after a roadside search? Speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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