Many criminal charges in North Carolina stem from traffic stops. They often start with a motorist being stopped for a relatively minor traffic infraction. If an officer suspects that you may have drugs or weapons, as an example, in your vehicle, then they may ask you if they can conduct a search of it. How you respond to this question can greatly impact the course of your case if criminal charges are ultimately filed against you.
When a police officer first approaches your vehicle following a traffic stop, they’ll often approach your car and ask if you know why they pulled you over. You’re under no obligation to respond to the questions that they pose. You may definitely want to steer clear of saying anything that would incriminate yourself. Making small talk with them may put them at ease and motivate them to issue a warning instead of a ticket.
If you were driving erratically or they sense that you may have been doing drugs, then they may ask if they can search your car. Once again, you’re under no obligation to respond to them. Consent isn’t implied simply because you remain quiet. If you give them permission to search your car, then they can look through the entire vehicle.
Even if you don’t voluntarily consent to a search of your vehicle, they can still perform one. This is especially the case if they have reasonable suspicion that you’re concealing something illegal or dangerous, such as weapons or contraband, in it. In some jurisdictions, they can even search your locked trunk or glove box.
No matter what motivates an officer to search your vehicle, they may place you in the rear seat of their police car while performing it.
If your car is impounded by the police, then they can search it thoroughly without your consent. An inventory of anything that they find while looking through it must be taken. This generally keeps police from impounding vehicles solely to conduct a search.
Individuals who were charged with a crime after police conducted a search of their vehicles may be able to get their charges dismissed. This is especially the case if they can prove that an unlawful traffic stop or illegal search and seizure occurred. A dedicated criminal defense attorney in Statesville can help you determine if your Fourth Amendment rights were violated when police decided to search your car.