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DO I HAVE TO AGREE TO A POLICE SEARCH?

Posted: January 12, 2017

You’re driving along when all of a sudden, red and blue lights start flashing in your rear-view mirror. You pull over and an officer approaches your window, asks for your license and registration, then tells you he needs to search your vehicle. What do you do?

In another scenario, you’re at home minding your own business when you hear a knock at the door. You answer it to find a police officer standing outside. They say they need to search your home. Do you have the right to refuse?

YOU CAN WITHHOLD CONSENT TO A WARRANTLESS SEARCH

Warrantless searches seem like a bit of a gray area to many. The truth is that, without a warrant or probable cause, an officer does not have the authority to conduct a search.

Now, you may be wondering “Is it really a good idea to tell an officer ‘no’ when they tell you they are going to conduct a search?” That depends on whether or not there is probable cause for them to do so – and that’s where things can get tricky.

“Probable cause” is defined by the Legal Information Institute as “when evidence of the crime is present in the place to be searched.” Common examples include when an officer claims he or she can smell marijuana when they approach the vehicle of a person they just pulled over, or when they see a bag with suspicious white powder sitting on a table behind the person who answered the front door. In the same definition, "probable cause" may justify a warrantless search or seizure.

Do you believe that there is no probable cause? Here is what you should do:

  • Withhold Consent – Respectfully tell the officer that you do not give consent to the search. Do NOT say that you “refuse” the search – simply say "I'm sorry, Officer; I do not consent to searches."
  • Be Careful What You Say – If they ask you further questions, remain calm and be careful with your answers. Do not give the officer reason to believe you are hiding something. Try to keep your answers simple, like “Yes, Officer” and “No, Officer” and show them that you do not mean to cause any trouble.

WHAT IF THE OFFICER STILL SEARCHES MY CAR / HOUSE / PERSON?

Call a Springfield, MO criminal defense attorney from Worsham Law Firm immediately.

In many cases, a criminal defense attorney can build a case to prove that the officer did not, in fact, have probable cause to conduct the search, or that he or she did so without your consent and violated your Fourth Amendment rights. The sooner you have legal representation, the better your chances will be of getting your charges dropped or your case dismissed.

Arrested after a warrantless search? Contact us today at (417) 658-4172 for a case consultation.

Categories: Criminal Defense