I could never understand why so many people voluntarily consent to a search of their vehicle when asked by a police officer. The best answer I can give to this tough question is a resounding NO.
I often ask my clients why they would allow the police to search their vehicle, especially when they know they have contraband in the vehicle, and I generally I get the same response. Either they say that they felt that they had no choice but to give consented to a search or that they just wanted to cooperate. They often say that they felt that regardless of their answer, the officer would have searched the vehicle anyway.
Even if you know YOU didn’t put anything illegal in your vehicle, you can’t possibly know what your passengers had in their possession when they got into your vehicle or if they left anything when they got out of your vehicle. My advice would always be NEVER VOLUNTARILY CONSENT TO A SEARCH.
I know that it can be an intimidating to tell an officer, “no you can’t search my vehicle,” but it is well within your rights to do so. I often ask the clients, “Why would you want to help someone find a reason to arrest you?” You have no obligation to consent to any search, at any time. All you do when you consent to a search is limit your options later.
In many cases, the officer will tell the driver that if they don’t consent to a search, then they will have them wait until a drug dog arrives. Although an officer can temporarily stop a vehicle for a traffic infraction, the officer can not keep you there longer than the time necessary to conduct the traffic stop. If the officer holds you there longer than necessary “for the drug dog to show up,” then you can challenge the search and possibly have the evidence thrown out of court, but if you were to consent to the search then you have nothing to challenge. Don’t be intimidated, you have the right to say NO to a search.
If the officers search the vehicle anyway, my best advice would be to be polite, never consent, don’t make any statements and call a lawyer so that you can fight the search later. Any statement you make will be put into the police report and used to convict you later. Remember, the police are allowed to lie to you. They are not required to uphold any promises that they make to you, even if they say that they will let you go if you claim ownership of the contraband. Finding drugs in your vehicle is not the end of your case, but if you consent to the search or claim ownership of the contraband, then you are just given them the tools to convict you. Remember, you have the right to say NO, use it.
So, if you have been arrested on a criminal charge in South Florida or would like more information please call David J. Sobel at 954-383-3000 for a free consultation. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will be able to apply the law to the facts of your specific case.