If law enforcement levies drug charges against you because the police had found supposedly incriminating evidence in your vehicle, you may feel angry and confused. Did the police have the right to search your car in the first place? In some cases, the answer is actually no. It depends on the circumstances involved.
The police need a search warrant or probable cause of a crime in order to search someone’s property. If neither of these factors were at work in your case, it is doubtful that the police could have searched your car unless you gave consent for the search to happen.
Consent is important in many searches
According to Flex Your Rights, many vehicle searches happen not because of probable cause, but because the motorists had given the police permission to conduct a search. However, you are under no obligation to provide consent. If the police lack probable cause or a search warrant, it is highly unlikely they can conduct a legal search.
Why many people give consent
Given that a police search of an automobile may not be necessary, why do so many people give permission anyway? For one thing, the presence of an officer may be intimidating. Many people feel they have no choice but to allow a search to happen. Sometimes an officer will trick a motorist into giving consent.
Also, many people do not know that they do not have to give permission if asked. The problem is that an officer may not inform you about this fact. Instead, the officer might lead you to believe that you have no choice but to permit the search.
Lack of consent may make a difference
If an officer has probable cause, a search of your vehicle will likely be legal. If not, you may say that you do not grant consent to a search. If the officer conducts a search anyway, it could do harm to the prosecution’s case against you if the search leads to criminal charges. A judge may throw out the evidence since the police violated your constitutional rights in obtaining it.
The end result may be a dismissal of the charges against you if the prosecution has no other evidence. What you say to the police prior to a search can make a crucial difference.