The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from unlawful search and seizure. In most cases, you have the right to refuse a police search and doing so may be wise. If the police ask for permission to search your person, car, or property, you can say no.
If you do have any illegal substance in your possession you will want to refuse a search (when possible) to prevent the police from finding it. Even if you do not have anything to hide, refusing a search may be in your best interest.
You never know what the officer may find. If you have had other passengers in your car, have lent your car to someone, or purchased your car used, you may not be certain that nothing illegal will be discovered. It is best to refuse the search when possible.
When do you have to allow the search?
There are instances when you cannot refuse the search.
- You cannot refuse a police search if they have a warrant. A warrant is a document that has been signed by a judge that gives officers the right to search your property based on suspicion of criminal activity.
- You cannot refuse a search if the officer can see evidence of criminal activity. This means that evidence of a crime is openly visible to an officer.
- If there is admission of guilt or probable cause you cannot refuse to be searched. If you admit having an illegal substance or the officer has probable cause, you cannot refuse the search.
- You cannot refuse a search upon arrest. Officers are allowed to search you and your belongings upon arrest.
Although you must obey a police search in the above situations, you can contest charges later. Speak with an attorney if you believe you were searched unlawfully. A defense attorney may be able to help your case.