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When do authorities have the right to search your vehicle?

On Behalf of | May 13, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

When a North Carolina law enforcement officer pulls your car over, he or she may request to take a look through it. Whether you have to allow him or her to do so depends on several variables, and knowing when you have the right to refuse the request may go a long way in terms of saving time and avoiding trouble.

According to FlexYourRights.org, in most instances, a law enforcement officer must have a warrant to proceed with a search of your home. However, a warrant is not always necessary if that officer wants to conduct a search of your vehicle.

What determines if an officer may search your car

If you do not want the law enforcement officer who stops your car to look through it and he or she does not possess a warrant, the search may still move forward if that officer has “probable cause.” This means the officer must have some sort of proof or evidence that shows him or her that something illegal has occurred. For example, if an officer smells an illegal substance coming from your car during the stop, this may meet the “probable cause” threshold.

What to do if the officer lacks probable cause

Without a warrant, probable cause or your permission, a law enforcement officer may not conduct a vehicle search. If this scenario presents itself, ask the officer who stopped you if you are free to go after politely stating that you do not consent to the search.

If the officer searches your vehicle without your permission, a warrant or something that constitutes probable cause, anything he or she finds during that search may not hold up in court.


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