Regardless of whether or not you have something you want to hide in your vehicle, police can’t just force you to acquiesce with a search of your private property. In order for an officer to legally conduct a search of your vehicle, they wither need your permission to do so, a warrant or an exception to a warrant. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at what factors would allow an officer to legally search your vehicle in Minnesota without a warrant.
Can Police Search My Vehicle?
While the permission aspect of a vehicle search may be obvious, we do want to touch on it really quick. Sometimes an officer will try to guilt an individual into giving consent to a search on the grounds that “if you have nothing to hide, then there is no harm in letting me search.” Now you’re in a position where you either consent to a search or you give off the impression that you are trying to hide something by not allowing the search.
If you are ever posed that question by a police officer, you can politely reply that you’re protected against warrantless searches, and if they truly believe they have enough evidence to conduct a legal search, then it should be no problem to get a warrant. Regardless of whether or not you have something you want to hide, you are protected against warrantless searches, and you can let the officer know that you would gladly comply with any warrant should they obtain one.
However, there are also exceptions that allow an officer to conduct a warrantless search of your vehicle. Aside from consent, there are six other generally accepted exceptions that will allow for warrantless searches. They are:
Incident To An Arrest – If you are being arrested for a crime, police can legally search your persons and areas of easy access in the vehicle, but only if there is a reasonable belief that evidence for the crime that has been committed may be uncovered. If the officer smells marijuana and believes you are driving under the influence, they can search for drugs or paraphernalia if you are being placed under arrest.
Plain View – If an object is in plain view during the traffic stop, police can seize the evidence without a warrant. If the officer spots drugs or a firearm in plain view, they won’t need a warrant to place it into evidence.
Probable Cause – This is a bit unique to motor vehicles, but given the mobile nature of a car, the courts have held that a search can be conducted absent a warrant if the officer has probable cause that items related to criminal activity will be found in the vehicle. If enough probable causes exists that would allow for a warrant to be obtained, but evidence could be lost by the time the warrant was obtained, police can conduct a warrantless search. For example, if someone reported that a person in a red Chevy Malibu was seen taking packages off or porches in a neighborhood, police may be able to stop a driver of that vehicle in the area and search their vehicle.
Inventory Search – If your vehicle is going to be towed or impounded following an arrest, police can conduct a warrantless inventory search of the vehicle.
Protective Weapons Search – Police can conduct a limited pat-down of a person or the passenger area of the vehicle if the officer can specifically describe why they believed the individual may be armed with a dangerous weapon. Officers would be wise to get a warrant or consent before heading down this path, because there needs to be clear and specific evidence of a legitimate threat, otherwise they entire search can be ruled unconstitutional.
Medical Emergency – Finally, in the event of a medical emergency, an officer may be able to search a vehicle because time is of the essence.
If you believe that your rights were violated and that police did not legally have the right to search your vehicle, reach out to Appelman Law Firm at (952) 224-2277 and let us get you the justice you deserve.