What to Do When the Police Ask to Search Your Car

Being at a traffic stop can be a stressful thing, especially if you are not certain of your rights or how to defend them. When police pull you over, you may be surprised to know that they do not have the automatic right to search you or your vehicle. If an officer asks to search your vehicle, you have the right to deny their request.

Unless the police are acting because of probable cause, they need your permission to enter your vehicle and conduct a search. Even with the law on your side, there is a certain way you can conduct yourself when police ask to search your car.

How to refuse a search

In all interactions with the police, be sure to remain polite and brief with your statements. When you hear the officer ask to search your vehicle, or if they say something that alludes to them searching your vehicle, repeat calmly and clearly that you do not consent to a search of your vehicle. You do not need to give a reason or explanation why you do not consent if they ask.

The police also cannot extend your traffic stop to conduct a sniff search by a K9 unit, according to Rodriquez v. United States. It is not unheard of for an officer to try and pressure you into consenting to a search or to talk in “double speak” to confuse you into consenting. Do not engage in conversation with the officer unless to repeat that you do not approve of any search in your vehicle.

What if they search your car anyway?

If police conduct a search of your vehicle without probable cause or your consent, do not interfere with the search. Getting in the way can lead to you getting charges that you may not be able to get rid of. Instead, allow the officers to finish their business and call an attorney as soon as possible to fight the officer’s actions in court instead of the traffic stop.