When can the police search my car?

On Behalf of | Mar 1, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Even when you are not doing anything wrong, no one wants to let the police search their car. Unfortunately, some circumstances can allow police to search your car without your permission.

The police searching your car may be the only opportunity for them to file drug charges against you, but an illegal search may cause a court to drop any charges that come from the search. So, when can the police search your car?

Probable cause to search the vehicle

The police cannot search a vehicle without a valid reason. There needs to be some circumstance that allows them to look through your vehicle for illegal substances. Here in Wisconsin, the police can only search your vehicle if they have facts or evidence to reasonably assume that you are presently committing some form of criminal activity. These facts or evidence are also known as “probable cause.”

While the police need probable cause to search your vehicle, they can be creative in determining the necessary evidence. If a driver appears to be swerving or otherwise poorly operating a vehicle, the police may argue that the driver appeared to be intoxicated or under the influence. The police may also claim that they smell drugs from your car during a traffic stop.

Not all evidence comes from the police, however. If the driver or any of their passengers admits to some sort of guilt in committing a crime, that can be enough for police to use to search your vehicle.

What happens if the police do not have probable cause?

If the police search your vehicle without probable cause or use some excuse of an expired license, broken taillight, or speeding, the police are conducting an illegal search. When this happens, do not interfere with their search. Stay quiet and wait for your next opportunity to call a criminal defense attorney. An experienced Wisconsin lawyer can help you protect your rights and hold police accountable for their actions.