You may be driving home late at night and suddenly see flashing lights in your rearview mirror. Or, you answer a knock at the door of your home and find a police officer there, waiting to talk with you. At some point, police may ask to search you, your car or your home if they suspect you committed a crime. However, do you have to let them complete their search? The answer to that question is simple: No. You always can refuse to allow police to search you, your personal belongings, your vehicle or your home (if they don’t have a warrant).
Searching you or your personal belongings
If police want to search you or your personal belongings, they must have a reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime. This means they must have a clear, specific, unbiased reason for believing you committed a crime or that you are armed and dangerous.
You never should empty your pockets or reach toward your waistband as police approach you. That will give them more reason to suspect you have drugs or a weapon and ask to search you.
Regardless of why police ask to search you, you can simply say you refuse to submit to a search and refuse further questioning.
Searching a vehicle
In order to search your vehicle, police must have probable cause for a search. That means police must have a strong, factual, unbiased reason to believe you are committing a crime. If police pull you over and see drug paraphernalia in your vehicle, that would be probable cause.
After giving an officer your name, driver’s license and registration, you can refuse to additional questioning and refuse a request to search your vehicle. If you do that, you have a better chance of not facing additional charges if a police officer finds drugs in your glove compartment or a unregistered gun under the seat of your car.
Searching your home
If police ask to search your home, you should ask if they have a warrant to do so. If police have a warrant, you should check what exactly it specifies that police will search. Perhaps, you have a shed in the backyard. Will police search that too under the warrant? It might not be included in the warrant, yet if police find drugs or illegal weapons in your home, they may expand their search to include your backyard shed.
No matter what happens, if police have a warrant to search you, your car or your home, you should contact an experienced, Orlando criminal defense attorney if police arrest you after the search. You want to do all you can to mount a strong defense any criminal charges you face.
You most likely won’t know if police conducted a search illegally or didn’t follow evidence collecting procedures properly. Having an attorney work with you can help you determine if you can get the charges against you dropped or reduced.