When can officers search you during a traffic stop?

On Behalf of | Sep 12, 2022 | Civil Rights Violations |

Traffic stops are unnerving for everyone. Even if you only face a fine for speeding, the interaction with a cop can become overwhelming or frightening if you feel like the officer wants to catch you with more than a traffic violation.

According to the ACLU, you have civil rights during a traffic stop that the officer cannot violate. An officer can only search your vehicle under specific circumstances.

Suspicious behavior

You have a right to refuse a search of your vehicle. If the officer does not have a warrant or any cause to search, he or she cannot do so without your permission. Refusing a search does not constitute suspicious behavior. However, if you appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the officer may use that as a reason to look through your car.

Suspicious evidence

If the officer spots paraphernalia or smells drugs within a vehicle, he or she may search it for evidence. You can refuse a search if the officer has no reason to think you have any proof within your vehicle.

If the officers ask you to wait while they allow canines to sniff around your vehicle, you do not have to stay. Officers cannot make you wait on standby for the dogs to search your vehicle.

When you fear the officer violated your rights, write down the entire event as quickly as possible to preserve the memory. Take note of any patrol car numbers, officer badge numbers and the police department the officers were from. You have the right to file a complaint with the internal affairs division or civilian complaint board.


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