Do I have to allow a police officer to search my car if I am pulled over?

Car Search Law FloridaThe answer is absolutely not! If you are pulled over by a police officer in the State of Florida, you have the right to refuse an officer’s request to search your car. Having said this, if an officer has a legal basis to search your car, they can do so without your permission.

Florida law gives a police officer the opportunity to search you or your car only in very specific situations.

First, if the police officer has a warrant signed by a judge, they can search your car. Second, even without a warrant, where the officer has “probable cause” to believe that the car contains contraband or evidence of a crime, he or she can search your car. Third, if the car is going to be impounded for some reason, the officer can make what is known as an “inventory search.” The only other way is where the person consents to a search of a car.

Surprisingly few people realize that they have the right to say no when an officer asks if they can search their car. Often, when an officer asks to search a car, they have no probable cause to believe that the car contains contraband; they are essentially on a fishing expedition.

What I tell my clients when they ask me this question is this:

First, don’t have anything illegal in your car. Second, if you get pulled over and an officer asks for consent to search, remember you can say no. If you say no, do so firmly and clearly, but with respect. Don’t let the officer bully you into saying yes. The bottom line is that if the officer has a legal basis to search your car, he will search it whether you give him permission or not. If you say no and they search it without a legal basis, most likely anything they find will not be able to be used against you in court later?

Collins, Maynard and Associates handles criminal defense cases in the Sarasota, Bradenton, Venice area.

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