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Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315
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Your Rights When Police Ask To Search Your Car


Maybe you were driving a few miles over the speed limit, or you failed to come to a complete stop at a traffic sign. You could have strayed slightly over the center line of the highway. However minor the reason may be for Fort Lauderdale police to pull you over, you are now involved in a classic traffic stop. You know you have certain rights when detained by officers, but do they extend to a search of your vehicle? The answer to this question is an important one because, if that search turns up something more serious than a traffic citation, you could be facing criminal charges. A Florida criminal defense attorney can help you understand the detail, but a general overview may also be useful.

Your Search and Seizure Rights: Under the US Constitution and the Declaration of Rights within the Florida State Constitution, your rights against unlawful searches and seizures shall not be violated by law enforcement. The only way an officer can search your person, home, and personal effects is by obtaining a warrant supported by affidavit. Over the years, both federal and state courts have held that the warrant requirement only extends to places where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Eventually, a case came before the US Supreme Court that raised the issue of whether a warrant was necessary to search a vehicle. The Justices found that police do not need a warrant before conducting such a search, because there is not the same expectation of privacy as there would be for a search of a person, home, or place of business.

Warrantless Vehicle Searches: Even though police do not need a warrant to search a car, there are civil rights factors involved with a routine traffic stop. Law enforcement may only search the interior of a vehicle if they have pulled you over based upon a reasonable suspicion that you violated a traffic law. Still, officers can only search the car’s interior and inside the glove box; they cannot search the trunk of your vehicle unless they have probable cause to believe that there are items tied to criminal activity.

Besides vehicle searches, there are other circumstances under which police can search, seize, or arrest without a warrant. Examples include:

  • Police can make a felony arrest in a public place if they have probable cause that the offender committed the crime.
  • An officer can conduct a limited search of a person’s outer clothing if there is a reasonable belief that criminal activity is present in a public place, and that the person is somehow involved.

Talk to a Knowledgeable Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer About Vehicle Searches

Though police do not need a warrant, they cannot randomly stop motorists and search vehicles for no reason. Therefore, reasonableness and probable cause are the keys, and they can be very case specific. You need an experienced legal advocate on your side to fight illegal searches, so please contact criminal defense attorney Kevin J. Kulik for more information. We can answer your questions or schedule a confidential consultation to review your case.

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