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Can Police Search Your Vehicle Without a Warrant?

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects you against unlawful search and seizure, which can generally prohibit random searches of your vehicle by police. If the police search your vehicle without a valid warrant, a legitimate reason, or without your permission, they may be violating your Fourth Amendment rights. However, there are some situations in which police are allowed to search your vehicle without a warrant or even your permission.

Expectation of Privacy

You have an expectation of privacy, but the standard is lower in a vehicle versus that expectation of privacy in your own home. This means that anything left in plain sight, like a gun on your seat, could be used to conduct a more intensive search of your vehicle and/or seizure of items found.

Should You Consent to a Search of Your Vehicle?

Typically, you should not voluntarily agree to a search of your vehicle. Even if you are not hiding anything per se, force the officer to get a warrant or rely on probable cause in order to search your vehicle. This is why retaining a Maryland criminal defense attorney is important. We can help you fight the charges or get the evidence tossed out of the case if it is deemed that the police acted unlawfully and violated your Fourth Amendment rights.

What is Probable Cause?

One way police may be able to search your vehicle is based on probable cause. Aside from something being visible in your vehicle, probable cause basically states that there is a good chance the police will find contraband or evidence of some crime somewhere in your vehicle.

Examples of Search and Seizure

It is important to understand what search and seizure is as it relates to criminal matters as a whole. Some examples of search include your home and your vehicle, but also a search of personal objects. These may include cell phones, computers, a purse, briefcase, suitcase, or even your pockets. These searches may result in a seizure. Seizures can include arrests, DNA warrants, and removal of any type of property located during the search.

Searches of vehicles typically fall under probable cause, inventory search (search of impounded vehicle after the driver has been arrested), or search incident to arrest (allows police to search areas within immediate reach of the driver when placing him or her under arrest).

What Happens to Seized Property?

Property that is taken during a vehicle search may be held for evidence, forfeited, or returned to the rightful owner. A judge may order the property to be returned for several reasons, including that it is not covered under the scope of the warrant (when applicable), there is no reason to continue holding the property (hard drive or cell phone data copied and downloaded), or the property does not need to be forfeited in order to use the proceeds to pay restitution, and it can be verified that the property was not used in the commission of a crime.

Importance of Retaining a Charles County Criminal Defense Attorney

Because the individual circumstances regarding a vehicle search can vary widely, it is critical to have a competent Charles County criminal defense attorney on your side. It is our job to help get evidence suppressed if the police violated your constitutional rights. Contact the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at 301-705-5137, or visit our website at

This article has been provided by Law office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions contact our office to speak to an experienced lawyer at (301) 705-5137.

Law office of Robert Castro. 2670 Crain Highway #411, Waldorf, MD 20601. (301) 705-5137