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What are Cops Allowed to Do if They Pull You Over?

Getting pulled over by the police can be a nerve-wracking experience. You can become anxious, tense and may not be able to think with a clear head. Not knowing your rights when a police officer pulls you over could lead to an unauthorized search, arrest and criminal charges.

If you have been arrested for a crime after your car was searched by the police, it is important to have a Wallin & Klarich attorney who can review your case to make sure the search was legal and we can fight the charges against you.

Police Need Probable Cause to Search Your Vehicle

During a traffic stop, police need probable cause to search your vehicle. “Probable cause” is a reasonable belief that something illegal is or was taking place in your car.1.Examples of probable cause include the sight of drugs or alcohol in plain view, the smell of drugs or alcohol or if the person admitted guilt to a crime. In these cases, the police would likely have probable cause to search your vehicle and make an arrest.Gen%2042.jpg
Traffic violations like speeding, having a broken tail light or having expired vehicle registration tags are not considered probable cause for police to search your vehicle.2However, if the police pull you over for a traffic violation and see or smell drugs or alcohol, they may have probable cause to search your vehicle.

Your car can be searched if a police officer has reason to suspect you are involved in a crime. 3A police officer may have probable cause to search your car if the officer sees blood in your car, or you or another person in plain view have a black eye or other visible injuries.4

How to Handle a Search Request from a Police Officer

If you are pulled over by law enforcement, police are allowed to have you step out of your car and frisk the outside of your clothing for weapons, if they suspect you are armed. However, if they request to search your car with no probable cause, you have the right to verbally state your refusal to consent to a search. Many people do not know they have the right to refuse a search request from a police officer. The police are not required to tell you about your right to refuse.5

By simply stating, “Officer, I do not consent to this search,” you exercise your Fourth Amendment right to refuse search requests. The officer may phrase the search request as a command (e.g. “You don’t mind if I have a look in your car.”) or ask follow up questions (e.g. “What do you have to hide?”), but it is important to simply state your refusal (repeating it if you have to) and not answer any other questions.6

Refusing a search request from an officer is not an admission of guilt nor does it give an officer the right to search your car or detain you. If an officer searches your car and finds illegal items despite your refusal, an experienced criminal defense attorney can file a motion to suppress the evidence in court.

Call the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges based on a potentially illegal search, it is critical that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully handling cases involved search and seizure rights. Our attorneys will fight to get you the best possible outcome in your case.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney near you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.


1. [When can police search your car?, http://www.flexyourrights.org/faqs/when-can-police-search-your-car/]
2. [Ibid.]
3. [If The Cops Pull You Over, These Are Your Rights, November 22, 2013, http://www.businessinsider.com/what-rights-do-you-have-when-pulled-over-2013-11#ixzz2wN5y0A79]
4. [Id.]
5. [Ibid. 1]
6. [Ibid. 1]

About Wallin & Klarich

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.