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Can I search your car?

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I’m on a streak of sorts.

My last two suppression motions in marijuana cases have been granted.

As a NORMAL legal committee member marijuana victories are especially satisfying.

Both cases involved consent search issue; where the police asked for permission to search (or should have).

Aggregating these cases produces some general advise on being stopped and searched.

You should NEVER let the police search your vehicle. Why?

The cop has already decided you are a criminal, otherwise he wouldn’t be asking to search.

Why would you want someone who thinks you are a criminal search your car? Second, the cop might be crooked.

Cops have been known to plant drugs from time to time.

Finally, your friends and family might be drug users.

Cops will often try and trick you into granting permission to search your car.

Police rarely ask for permission to search in a straightforward way.

Look out for this typical line the cops use to get your consent to search.

Cop- "You don’t have any guns, meth, hand grenades, or dead bodies in your car do you?"

You- "No."

Cop- "Then you don’t mind if I search your vehicle."

You- "Actually I do mind. Am I free to go now?"

See the trick.

The cop is implying that only a person with something to hide would deny permission to search.

He wants you to say "No, I don’t mind" before you have a chance to think about it.

In this case, the correct answer is "Yes, I do mind."

This back door search request is used because police care little about informing you of your rights- they want to search and they want your consent.

Asserting your rights will often make the police angry. Here is a typical response.

You- "I do not want you to search my car."

Cop- "Well, if you have nothing to hide why can’t I search?"

You- "Am I free to leave?"

Cop- "If you don’t let me search I am going to bring out the drug dog!"

You- "Am I free to leave?"

At that point the cop is left with a decision on whether to actually call out the K9 unit, or let you go. Don’t feel bad for him.

He is the one who caused this problem. Start asking cops if you are free to leave. Cops hate this, but it is important.

During a traffic stop, the police should only be investigating traffic violations.

They will inquire about the violation, check your DL and insurance and look for warrants.

If the police start asking about drugs and guns, it is because they think you have them.

Finally, never try and stop an officer from searching. That’s always a bad idea.

Even if you think he is acting illegally, the side of the road isn’t the place to correct bad officer behavior.


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