Know Your Rights: Can Police Search Your Car?

Back in colonial days, British authorities trampled on American rights. The old “writ of assistance” is a good example. The Redcoats used these blank search warrants as an excuse to poke around anywhere, anyplace, and anytime they chose. Your rights to privacy and protection were unsure.

Based on that experience, one would think that the Constitution would contain strong prohibitions against warrantless searches. But essentially, that’s really not the case, as the Fourth Amendment only prevents “unreasonable” warrantless searches and seizures.

So, if officers have probable cause to do so after a traffic stop, they can use one of the below search warrant exceptions to search your car. Fortunately, you have some rights too. One of those rights is to work with United Bonding Company (bail bond near me) if you are arrested in the greater Memphis area or western portion of Tennessee. Their professional bondsman will secure your quick release from jail with a surety bond after police arrest you.

Consent and Other Search Warrant Exceptions

If officers ask to search a car or other property and the owner says “yes,” officers may literally inspect every portion of your vehicle looking for contraband. The scope and ease of this exception make it one of the most popular search warrant exceptions on the books. In some cases, the consenting party does not have to be the owner. That person could be someone with apparent authority, such as the spouse of the vehicle owner.

There are a few other common vehicle search warrant exceptions which officers can use to bypass the Fourth Amendment. Some of them include:

  • Plain View: If officers see contraband in plain sight, they may seize it and use it in court. Partial plain view cases, such as part of a marijuana joint protruding from under the seat, are in a grey area.
  • Exigent Circumstances: If officers arrive at the scene of a car wreck, they can search the car to make sure that all the pets and people inside it are okay. They may also seize any items they see in plain view while they are at it.

Other vehicle search warrant exceptions include the complex automobile exception and limited search incident to arrest exception. These doctrines are not used very often.

What Should I Do?

If the police pull you over, especially for something like DUI, they will almost certainly arrest you. Tennessee has very strict and highly enforced DUI laws. Since it’s almost impossible to talk your way out of a DUI, don’t even try. You will surely be asked to show your “license and registration please”.

It is best to be polite. If officers feel threatened, the encounter could end very, very badly. When officers say “step out of the car” or “put your hands behind your back,” best to do it and not to argue.

After it’s over, either you or your loved one should call United Bonding Company for professional bonding services and a fast release from jail.

United Bonding Company is the premier bonding company in Memphis and serves western Tennessee and proud members of Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents. They also provide bail bonds for the Shelby County Juvenile Court. Call (901) 577-1138 for more information about the bail and bail bonds process or read more at our page


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