Getting stopped by the police can be scary at the best of times, and even worse if they ask to perform a search of your vehicle. You have a number of rights in situations such as this, and it’s important to know that you do not have to consent to a search of your vehicle.
Many people allow officers to search their vehicle without knowing that they can refuse.
What Rights Do You Have?
In Florida, an officer is not allowed to search your vehicle unless they have probable cause to suspect a crime. They might suspect you have illicit drugs in your vehicle if they can smell drugs (such as the smell of marijuana), or they can see drugs, drug use, or drug paraphernalia inside the vehicle. You do not have to open your doors, windows, or allow access to your vehicle in any way.
You are permitted to say to the police officer: “I respectfully decline to give consent to search my vehicle”, and you can ask for evidence or an indication of the probable cause that they are relying on to perform the search.
In all cases, even if the officer becomes angry at your response, remain calm. Without a legal justification to detain you, they must let you proceed on your way. If your cellphone is within reach and you are not at risk of harm from officers during the stop, you can also call a lawyer during the stop if you feel the need to do so.
Alternatively, they can search your vehicle if they suspect that someone who has been arrested may be in the vehicle. If police officers have already taken someone from your vehicle and moved them to a police car, they no longer have the right to search your vehicle in relation to that arrest. They can only search the vehicle for that person, and once the person is removed their right to search is over.
What if Drugs are Found?
If you have consented to a search of your vehicle and illicit drugs are found, contact a lawyer at your earliest opportunity. In other cases, you may have refused to give consent, and an officer may have searched your vehicle anyway, with or without probable cause.
A lawyer can help you to defend your case, and to ensure that any procedural rules that have not been followed are highlighted. For example, if an officer had no probable cause to search your vehicle, and they did so anyway, your case can be thrown out, or you can hire a lawyer to defend against any charges.
Get Help from a Board-Certified Attorney
If you have been stopped in Florida by a police officer and your vehicle has been searched without your consent, Stechschulte Nell can help. Attorney Ben Stechschulte is a Florida board-certified trial lawyer and is ready to defend your case. We are available 24/7 to take your call and discuss the specifics of your case.