Criminal Defense in Ventura County
Can the Police Search My Car Without a Warrant?

Can the Police Search My Car Without a Warrant?

The Fourth Amendment’s protection against unlawful search and seizure essentially restricts arbitrary vehicle searches by law enforcement. If the police search your car without a warrant, a valid reason, or your consent, they are in violation of your constitutional rights.

However, not every police search must be made under a lawfully executed warrant. There are some circumstances in which police can search a vehicle without obtaining a warrant.

The following are the five circumstances which enable law enforcement to search your vehicle without a warrant:

  • You have given the officer consent to search your vehicle
  • The police have “probable cause” to believe the vehicle contains illegal substances, contraband, or any evidence of a criminal offense
  • The police are lawfully arresting an occupant of the vehicle—and either the person being arrested is within reaching distance of the interior of the car, or it is reasonable to believe the vehicle contains evidence about the crime for which he/she is being arrested
  • The police are temporarily detaining an occupant of the car and reasonably believe that he or she may be dangerous and have access to weapons stored in the vehicle
  • The vehicle has been lawfully impounded by police and they are conducting an “inventory search”

If you are a victim of an unlawful vehicle search by law enforcement and you are charged with a criminal offense based on evidence found in the search, you can challenge the evidence with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. This is generally done through a Penal Code 1538.5 PC motion to suppress evidence, which is a common pretrial motion.

A 1538.5 PC motion to suppress is a request to the judge to throw out any evidence that was either (1) obtained through an unreasonable search and seizure performed without a warrant or (2) obtained through a search that was conducted with a warrant—but where the warrant was deficient or the search was performed in an unconstitutional manner. And if that evidence is crucial to the prosecutor’s case against you, then you may be able to get the charges against you reduced or even dismissed entirely.

For more information, contact our Ventura criminal defense lawyer at The Law Offices of Jarrod M. Wilfert today.