If you get stopped by police, you expect a routine traffic stop. But if the police ask to search your vehicle, what should you do? In Pennsylvania, the best thing to do is politely, but firmly, say no.
Responding to a police request to search a car
The police need a valid reason to search a vehicle. When the police conduct a traffic stop, they’re legally required to limit their investigation to the reason that they stop you unless they have credible evidence that there may be other criminal activity going on. Drivers have the right to be free from unlawful search and seizure.
In order to search a vehicle, the police need consent, a warrant to search or an exception to the warrant requirement. Of course, getting a warrant requires several steps on the part of the police. It’s easier for them to get the consent of the driver. However, you can and should politely say no.
Why say no if the police ask to search your vehicle
You have the right to refuse a request for a search. Here are the reasons that you should say no if the police ask to search your vehicle in Pennsylvania:
- Even with good intentions, the police can make mistakes. For example, you may have substances in your vehicle that the police mistake for drugs.
- Something left in your car or brought in by a passenger may be wrongfully attributed to you.
- The police may not be able to secure a warrant.
- It’s your legal right to require law enforcement to get a warrant or have an exception to the warrant requirement.
When you say no, be sure that you are clear and direct with law enforcement. Remain calm and do not give false information to a law enforcement officer. Understanding how to respond to a search request can help you during the traffic stop and later in court. Even if the police find something illegal, you may be able to challenge the legal basis for the search later using criminal law procedure. A defense lawyer may help you through the process.