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 February 23, 2022

What Are Your Rights if Police Ask to Search Your Car?

2 police officers searching a vehicle as a woman stands nearby

The panic of being pulled over

Have you been driving and suddenly felt the spine-chilling panic of seeing blue and red flashing lights in your rearview?

If you’re like most people, you know all too well how scary it can feel to be pulled over by the police, even when you don’t know what you were doing wrong.

A man in Philadelphia recently had this exact situation happen to him. After being pulled over for not making a complete stop at a stop sign, he complied with orders to show the officer his license, registration, and proof of insurance.

But the police officer then got aggressive and demanded to search the man’s car solely because the man “looked nervous.” Now what?

Knowing what your rights are in these situations is imperative. Would you know what you can legally say if a police officer asks to search your car for no reason? Do you have to agree to allow them to search?

Let’s break it down.

Your right to say no to search your car

The police officer didn’t have the right to demand to search this man’s car. Appearing nervous is not a valid legal reason to search his vehicle. When the man refused, the officer called in backup, and the situation escalated.

Luckily, the man called the LegalShield Emergency line and was quickly connected with a lawyer who informed him of his rights. When the lawyer presented herself and spoke to the officer by phone, the man was released with no citation or verbal warning.

3 fundamental rights to know

If you ever find yourself in the same situation as this Philadelphia man, know these three key rights:

1. You are not required to consent to a search. Officers can search if they have probable cause, believe their safety is in danger, or you have been arrested, and the search is related to the arrest.

2. You have the right to remain silent.

3. If you are arrested, you have the right to an attorney. Police can still question you until you demand that you want a lawyer.

The importance of legal help

This man was wise to call the LegalShield Emergency line – if he hadn’t, the scenario could have gone completely differently.

Knowing your rights is necessary, whether you’re simply fighting a traffic ticket, got in an auto accident, or are refusing to have your car searched. It’s also crucial to have a lawyer on your side advocating for you in situations like this. A body camera is not required for police officers in some states. So, without a lawyer present, it could turn out to be your word against the police officer’s.

Learn more about your legal rights on the road

Legal altercations happen every day on the road, and it’s critical to know your rights and have support if you’re ever in a sticky situation like this one.

Learn more about your traffic rights and get access to a seasoned traffic violations lawyer who knows the laws in your state.

Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. (“PPLSI”) provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to PPLSI members through membership-based participation. Neither PPLSI nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation, or advice. The information available in this blog is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations. The blog post is not a substitute for competent legal counsel from a licensed professional lawyer in the state or province where your legal issues exist and the reader is strongly encouraged to seek legal counsel for your specific legal matter. Information contained in the blog may be provided by authors who could be a third-party paid contributor. All information by authors is accepted in good faith, however, PPLSI makes no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability, or completeness of such information.


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