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Can Police Conduct a Vehicle Search Without a Warrant?

A Vehicle Search Without a Warrant? It Can Happen to You

Generally, police cannot conduct a vehicle search without a warrant, but of course, there are exceptions to every rule. In most situations, police must demonstrate to a judge that there is probable cause for a search of your home.  If they can prove that cause, the judge will grant them a warrant, but there are a few instances when police can search without a warrant and without violating your rights.

Fourth Amendment Protections…and Exceptions

The U.S. Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures but it limits this right by allowing officers to conduct searches if they have probable cause. There is a key term in the Constitution too: “unreasonable”. This language means that law enforcement is not prohibited from conducting any searches, just unreasonable ones. That means there are times that officers can conduct a search without a warrant without violating your rights. The Fourth Amendment isn’t about protecting your rights at all costs, it’s about balancing your rights with the probable cause of a crime.

Vehicle Searches Without Warrants Are Common

It is more common for police to conduct a vehicle search without a warrant than searching a home without a warrant. The primary reason for this is because police can conduct a vehicle search during an arrest in some circumstances. If you are stopped while driving, police can look at anything within reach of the driver or suspect if you are arrested.

Probable Cause Can Lead to a Vehicle Search Without a Warrant

It is not difficult for police to claim they had probable cause for a vehicle search without a warrant. All they need is probable cause.  Probable cause is not a “feeling” or “hunch”, it must be based on provable fact; an officer’s past experience in similar situations is often used to justify a vehicle search without a warrant.

There are limits to this power. If you aren’t in the car and aren’t within reach of a weapon, the law may be on your side. An arrest must also be made for a warrantless search to occur. If you are arrested, your car may be impounded and a more thorough search conducted.

You Still Have Rights. Eisenberg Law Offices Can Protect Them

Although the expectation of privacy is lower in a vehicle than in a house, the police are not unlimited in their rights. They must have probable cause and you still have rights. Police will do everything they can to justify their actions and use the evidence found against you.

If police obtained the evidence illegally or violated your constitutional rights, it will be thrown out or suppressed. This is why challenging evidence from a warrantless search is such a common and effective defense strategy. A skilled criminal defense attorney from Eisenberg Law Offices can help you fight the charges against you by examining how the evidence against you was obtained and whether or not your rights were violated.

Contact our criminal defense attorneys to arrange a free consultation by calling 608-256-8356 or emailing today. There is hope, even if the evidence against you seems overwhelming.



Eisenberg Law has successfully represented our clients in thousands of Personal Injury, Criminal Defense and Family Law Cases during our 30-plus years in business.