Can police search my vehicle during a DUI stop?

There is a certain amount of panic that comes with seeing police lights flashing in your mirrors. There is the hope that the officer is after someone else. Once you realize you are getting pulled over, the process is fast and slow at the same time.

On one hand, the time the officer spends in the squad car running your information seems long. On the other hand, your interactions with the officer may seem so fast it is difficult to remember what happened.

You may not have thought twice about allowing the officer to search your vehicle or you might have felt like you did not have a choice. Here’s what to think about when an officer asks to search your vehicle during a DUI stop.

Just when you think you have nothing to hide

When an officer asks to search your vehicle, your first instinct may be to allow it because you think you have “nothing to hide.” The problem, however, is that once you give permission for an officer to search your car, it tends to become less of a “just checking” and more of a fishing expedition.

Before you know it, an officer can be going through your personal belongings and asking you questions that you were not prepared to answer.

When can an officer search my car?

If TV dramas have taught us anything, it’s that officers need to have a warrant to search a home or vehicle. Still, there are other times that officers can search your vehicle during a DUI stop.

If during the stop, the officer arrests you for a DUI and no one else is able to drive your vehicle, the officer will impound your car. When a vehicle is impounded, the officer will do an “inventory search” so that:

  • The officer can look for weapons or explosives that would be dangerous to the officer
  • There is a record of what was in the vehicle to ensure that all of your belongings are accounted for in the event that something goes missing

Finally, anything that is in plain sight when the officer pulls you over, can potentially be seized. This means that the officer can potentially take and use as evidence any substances or weapons the officer can see.

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