Photo of Christy M. Hall
Effective Criminal Defense Since 1998
PLEASE NOTE: To Protect your safety in response to the threats of COVID-19, we are offering our clients the ability to meet, via telephone or FaceTime. Please call our office to discuss your options.

When can the police search my car?

While the nation seems to be becoming more relaxed when it comes to the possession and recreational use of marijuana, it is still illegal in Wisconsin. When even a first offense can come with consequences, it is important to know whether or not the police have the right to search your vehicle. An illegal search can result in a court discharging any related charges, so when can the police go through your vehicle?

Necessary circumstances

The police cannot search anyone’s property just because they want to, and they need to have sufficient reasoning to conduct a search. Valid justifications for searching your vehicle can include:

  • The driver giving consent to the police to search their vehicle
  • If there are any drugs, alcohol, or weapons visible in plain sight within the vehicle
  • The police have a valid reason to impound your vehicle; they can search it while it is in their possession
  • If the police smell any drugs or alcohol, they can use it as a reason to search your vehicle
  • If the police arrest you, they can proceed with searching your vehicle for anything that may support their arrest
  • If there is some emergency that calls for the police to search your vehicle, like trying to find your insulin or medical I.D.

Police officers cannot simply pull you over and begin searching your vehicle; they need to have sufficient reason to conduct a search. If the police do begin a search, they will often explain what reasoning they have to perform the search before starting.

What do I do during an illegal search?

Whether the search the police conduct is legal or not, do not interfere with the search. If you suspect the police search is illegal, allow the police officers to finish their search and remain silent. Wait for the next opportunity to call a criminal defense attorney to consult with them about what you can to protect yourself.