During a traffic stop, police evaluate your behavior and look inside your car for anything of concern. The Fourth Amendment limits their scope for searching your car. An officer’s search must meet specific requirements for admissibility.
Understand when and how police can search your car or your person during a traffic stop.
You gave consent
Aside from having a warrant, the simplest solution for police to search your car is by asking for your consent. If you consent to the search, anything they find is admissible. You have the right to limit or revoke your consent at any time, even after you offer it.
The officer has reasonable suspicion
Whether the officer sees drug paraphernalia, evidence of a crime or a weapon in plain sight in your car, those visible items may justify a search. The officer can search your person in this instance as well if they suspect that you have a hidden weapon.
The officer arrests you
When an officer takes you into custody during a traffic stop, that often permits them to search your car, particularly when the officer believes that you have a weapon or illegal items in your car. Anything they find is usually admissible after a post-arrest search.
The officer has administrative grounds
After the police impound your car, officers can legally inventory the contents of the car for record-keeping purposes and documentation in case of theft accusations.
Knowing your rights and the situations that typically justify a search will help you protect your interests in a traffic stop.