When Can Police Search Your Vehicle in NYC?

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When Can Police Search Your Vehicle in NYC?


When police pull you over you should always refuse to consent to a search unless they have a warrant you do so. Consenting to a search waives your rights, and there is never a good reason to do so. For one thing, consenting to a search gives officers an opportunity to plant evidence in your vehicle. It’s not even hard to find true stories of cops behaving in this fashion

In order for police to have a legal right to search your car without those two things, they must have probable cause.

This is your Fourth Amendment right, and you’d be surprised how often these rights get violated. 

When may a vehicle search occur without a warrant or your consent?

Three “automobile exemptions” to the Fourth Amendment do exist. 

The first is when they have probable cause to believe evidence of a crime exists. Perhaps they spot a needle in plain view that gives them reason to believe illicit drugs might be present in the vehicle. Note that the smell of marijuana no longer counts as probable cause as recreational marijuana has been legal in New York since April of 2021. Traffic violations don’t count as probable cause, either. 

The second is when an officer believes the search is necessary for their own protection. Perhaps they see the butt of a gun peeking out from the side of a seat and believe you may be armed. Or, if you’re acting suspicious, police may search a “grabbable area” to ensure that you’re not destroying evidence or reaching for a weapon. 

Finally, if the officer arrests you, they do have the right to search your car if that search is related to the arrest. If arrested for DUI, then they can search for beer bottles or receipts that might serve as evidence in the ensuing case. 

Note that a “drug dog sniff” counts as a search. 

If the police make an illegal search of your vehicle we can make a Motion to Suppress any evidence they might find. If successful, that means a jury will never see that evidence. 

Get Help Today

If a search of your vehicle has led to you being charged with a crime, then you need help no matter how the search was conducted. 

Reach out to Greco Neyland to schedule a case review today. Our team can help defend your rights and perhaps reduce or eliminate the consequences of your arrest.

See also: 

When Can You Be Accused of Resisting Arrest in NYC? 

What Happens at a NYC DUI Traffic Stop? 

Is it a Crime to Insult a Police Officer? 


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