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Can the police search your car without a warrant?

Most Arizona residents know what it feels like to be pulled over by the police. But how many of you know what rights you still have after an officer has pulled you over?

Flex Your Rights states that an observation of real evidence or potential evidence must first be made in order for an officer to search your car. Just having a hunch isn't a viable reason. There needs to be something out in the open that prompts the search. Examples of hard evidence include open alcohol bottles in a car, or a pipe in plain sight. However, the smell of a drug can also be used as hard evidence. Additionally, admission of guilt or possession of drugs or drug-related paraphernalia can give officers a legal reason to go ahead with a search.

Sometimes, police may use minor traffic violations as an excuse to try searching your vehicle. Know that these violations, such as expired registration, speeding, or broken tail lights, are not a reasonable cause to search. In a scenario like this, it's possible to verbally refuse a search. It's inadvisable to physically refuse, however, or to try provoking officers.

If an officer has a warrant, then they will be able to search your car regardless. Without one, they'll only be able to do so if you admit to doing something wrong or if there's plain evidence of wrongdoing. This is why it's important to understand your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, as it will keep you from accidentally implicating yourself.

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Ramos Law Firm | 14500 N. Northsight Blvd, Suite 229 | Scottsdale, AZ 85260 | Phone: (480) 247-8558 | Map & Directions