The Fourth Amendment's protection against unlawful search and seizure essentially prohibits vehicle searches by law enforcement without a warrant or other circumstances.
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:
- Probable cause
- In the middle of a lawful arrest
- Temporary detainment
- Impounded vehicle
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.