Have you ever been pulled over by the police and wondered if they have the right to search your car without a warrant? In Michigan, there are certain circumstances where law enforcement where they can. However, knowing your rights as a driver and what situations may allow for such actions is important.
How the Fourth Amendment Applies to Car Searches
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. This amendment is often invoked in criminal cases when law enforcement officers search an individual’s property without a warrant. However, in Michigan, a car is viewed differently.
In contrast to a private residence, a car is regularly out in a public environment. Therefore, officers have more of a say when deciding if a search (without a warrant) is necessary. Additionally, getting a warrant on a vehicle regularly moving from place to place is difficult. But this doesn’t mean they can search your vehicle at will. They must still have a valid reason.
Reasons the Police Can Search Your Car Without a Warrant
There are several circumstances in which the police can search your car without a warrant in Michigan. The police may move forward with the search if one or more of these conditions are met.
Probable Cause That a Crime Is or Will Be Committed
This is also known as the “automobile exception” because it means that a police officer can search your vehicle if they reasonably deem that they will find something illegal.
You Give Consent to Search the Vehicle
In Michigan, an officer can legally search the vehicle if you consent. This must be of your own volition, and you should not be under coercion. It is also within your rights to decline and will not be taken as an admission of guilt. Drugs or Illegal Substances in Plain Sight
If an officer is approaching your vehicle and sees drugs or smells alcohol, they can search the car and investigate further without a warrant. They are also allowed to use their findings against you in court.
An Arrest Is Made or Intended to Be Made
If a police officer decides to search a car without a warrant in the event of an arrest, certain limitations apply. An officer can conduct a limited search of some areas of the car to find dangerous items or drugs, such as the glove box.
The Vehicle Is Impounded
If you are taken into custody and your car is towed to an impound lot, they can legally search the entire vehicle without a warrant.
What to Do If You Are a Victim of Unlawful Search
If you are a victim of an unlawful search, it’s important to know that whatever is found will not be admissible in court. Here are three steps to take if you feel that your car is being illegally searched:
1. Remain Calm: It’s essential to remain calm and not interfere with the search, even if you feel it is unlawful.
2. Document Everything: Document everything during the search, such as who was present and what items were taken from your property. Take photos or videos of the scene, as this can be useful evidence later.
3. Contact an Attorney: Reach out to a criminal defense attorney right away to protect your rights. Your lawyer will be able to explain your options and advise you on how best to proceed.