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Know Your Rights — Do I Have to Consent to a Search?

November 22, 2019


Picture this scenario. You’re driving down the highway after a long day of work. All of a sudden out of the corner of your eye, you see the notorious blue and red lights flashing, signifying one thing — a policeman or woman is asking you to pull over. You are not 100% sure why you were targeted or pulled over, but nonetheless you do so.
As the police walk over, you learn that you were pulled over for driving over the speed limit. After a bit, the policeman states he needs to search your car. What do you do?

You Do Not Need to Consent to a Search

First, a minor traffic violation such as speeding does not constitute the need for a search. Keep this in mind if you ever get pulled over for a broken tail light, expired registration or other slight traffic infractions.

In order to properly authorize and conduct a search of your car, house, personal belongings, a police officer must have probable cause. Probable cause is defined as “reasonable belief, based on facts that can be articulated, that is required to sue a person in civil court or to arrest and prosecute a person in criminal court.”

Therefore, a police officer must have concrete evidence, and/or reason, to search you and your possessions.

The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from unwarranted searches and seizures. Should you consent to a search, regardless of guilt or reason, you waive these rights.  You can say “No” to a search request

What To Do When Refusing a Search

When refusing a search conducted by a police officer, keep the following tips in mind:

1) Remain Calm — Calmly and confidently refuse the search request. Often, the police officer will back down upon receiving your response. A search conducted after the individual has not consented will not hold up in courts, and this is a waste of time and resources for police officers. On the contrary, should you become aggressive towards the officer, you will find yourself in a tricky situation.

2) Ask the Officer If You Are Free to Go — If you have not consented to the search, you should ask the officer if you are being detained or arrested. Remember, stay calm during this conversation. If the officer is not detaining you, you can end the conversation at any time. Do so by asking the officer if you are free to go. 

3) Ask for a Lawyer — If by chance you are being detained, tell the officer that you are going to remain silent and that you would like to see a lawyer. In this situation, do not say anything else! Should you be arrested or detained, the criminal defense attorneys at Hagar and Phillips are here to help. Not consenting to a search will help your case!

Throughout your entire encounter with the police officer(s) stay as calm and collected as possible. It can be a scary situation, but if you remain composed throughout your conversation, it’ll be in your best interest.

Contact Hagar and Phillips – Middle TN’s Trusted Criminal Defense Lawyers

Should you have questions about searches, your rights, or other situations regarding your case, contact our attorneys right away. 

Disclaimer

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.