Understanding your rights may help you avoid legal trouble and unnecessary hardship. When comes to search and seizure laws, your rights are a bit different when you are in a car than they are when you are at home. To search your California home without your permission, law enforcement officials need to have a warrant. However, to search your car or truck without your permission, they only need “probable cause.”
According to FlexYourRights.org, anything turned up by a vehicle search that takes place without your consent, a warrant or probable cause may not hold up in court.
Understanding probable cause
“Probable cause” means a law enforcement officer has some sort of tangible proof or evidence of illegal activity or wrongdoing. An admission of guilt from you or someone in your vehicle may count as probable cause. If an officer sees or smells something of an illegal nature coming from your car, this may also give him or her a valid reason to search your car without your consent.
Understanding what to do in the absence of probable cause
Without probable cause (or a warrant or your consent), a law enforcement officer does not have grounds to move forward with a search of your vehicle. If you do not wish for the search to take place, be firm and polite when you tell the officer as much. Then, ask if you are free to go.
Many people find themselves in serious legal trouble because they do not understand their rights in specific situations. Knowing your rights when it comes to search and seizure – and exercising them appropriately – may go a long way in terms of keeping you out of the criminal justice system.