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The danger of consenting to a vehicle search during a stop

Whether you were going too fast or had a burned-out brake light, the officer who stopped you had a valid reason. Once they start talking to you, you can tell that they seem to be fishing for something else. When the officer eventually asked to search your vehicle, your first instinct may be to agree.


You know you haven’t broken the law, and you figure that giving them permission will speed up this whole process. Unfortunately, that approach could put you in danger. Police officers often ask for permission when they don’t have probable cause to search a vehicle.


Once you give your permission, you usually can’t withdraw it until they finish. You will have to wait while they search and possibly suffer the consequences if they find something in your vehicle.


You may not know what’s actually in your motor vehicle

Do you carpool to work with other people and take turns driving? Have you recently driven your teenage child someplace with their friends? Did you buy the vehicle used?


If anyone else has driven the vehicle other than you or even ridden in the back seat, there could be items in your vehicle that you don’t know about. A previous owner or a passenger could have dropped narcotic painkillers, a baggie full of a white powder or even a joint under the seat in your vehicle.


Anything from a broken pipe with residue on it to a single marijuana seed could be a reason for officers to keep searching or to charge you with a criminal offense.


What happens when something is in your vehicle but not on your person?

If the state tries to pursue charges against you for something found in your vehicle but not in your personal possession during a search, they will likely try to establish constructive possession. Essentially, the prosecutor will hope to convince a judge and jury that you knew the item was there and had control over it.


There are ways to defend against drug possession charges. However, knowing your rights and not allowing an unnecessary search of your vehicle could save you from the stress that comes from an unexpected discovery.