When can a police officer search your car in New York

It happens quite often that a person is stopped by a police officer in New York and has their vehicle searched. While there are many situations where a police officer has every right to search a vehicle, there are also instances when they don’t.

Understanding your rights can come in handy, and possibly help you get out of a charge that has been laid against you, and even possible jail time.

Can A Police Officer Search Your Vehicle During A Traffic Stop?

During a traffic stop, a police officer always has the right to peer through your vehicle’s windows, and look at the driver and the passenger seat in the front. Often times they’ll use a flashlight.

Police officers often do this to check whether or not there’s something in plain sight, and also just for their safety. They can only do a full search of your vehicle under a few different circumstances.

  • They possess a warrant – If the officer is in possession of a warrant they have the right to search your vehicle. There are still stipulations depending on why the warrant was attained. If they’re in search of something specific, then there are parts of the vehicle they may not be able to search, if that item couldn’t possibly be in that location of the vehicle.
  • Probable cause – A traffic violation alone doesn’t warrant probable cause. There needs to be a reason such as drugs, firearms, or other suspicious items before you can search the vehicle.
  • Plain sight – If while the officer is searching through the windows sees something that warrants a full search of the vehicle, it is within their rights.
  • Exigent Circumstances – If the officer believes that evidence may be destroyed without quick thinking and fast-acting, then they can search your vehicle.
  • Drivers consent – Of course if the operator of the vehicle consents to a full vehicle search then the officer is within his right to do so.

Can An Officer Search A Vehicle That Isn’t Owned By The Driver?

This is a difficult question to answer, as it depends on many factors. If this happens, the best advice would be to stay quiet and seek an attorney when you have the chance.

Can An Officer Search The Trunk?

In order for an officer to have the right to search the trunk of your vehicle, they must have probable cause.

While the trunk is considered separate from the vehicle, the officer must have probable cause related to the trunk itself. If police dogs smell something suspicious inside the trunk, the officer may conduct a search.

Can An Officer Search A Parked Vehicle?

The same rules apply to a parked vehicle. The officer still must possess a warrant, reasonable cause, consent, exigent evidence, or see something in plain sight.

Without these, the officer is not within his rights to search your vehicle.

Can The Police Search A Vehicle After An Accident?

The accident itself is not probable cause to search a vehicle. However, if the reason behind the accident warrants a vehicle search, then they will conduct one.

Different circumstances could be drug-related, or alcohol-related. However, if the accident was simply an accident involving no illegal activity, the police cannot search your vehicle.

Can The Police Search A Vehicle After A DWI/DUI Stop?

If you’re being pulled over for reckless driving, while being under the influence, an officer can search your vehicle. However, there are stipulations to this. They can only legally search the parts of the vehicle in which the driver could attain a weapon or an instrument that could cause harm to the officer.

Is It Legal For An Officer To Ask A Driver To Step Out Of Their Vehicle?

The short answer is, yes. The police officer may ask a driver to step out of their vehicle for safety reasons. If an officer makes a stop on a busy highway, he may want to do the questioning on the side of the road away from the traffic.

If the officer asks for this, you must comply. It is completely within their rights.

What Steps Should A Driver Take After Their Vehicle Has Been Searched?

If you feel as though an officer has performed an illegal search of your vehicle, the next step would be to contact an attorney.

You can schedule a free consultation and discuss whether or not the officers were within their rights to conduct the search. If not, your attorney will decide the proper steps to take.