What Should You Say If Police Ask To Search Your Car?
In short, you should say no. It is completely understandable that when the police pull you over you panic and cannot remember all the things you have heard to do or say. If you only remember one thing, remember to say no if ever you are asked if police can search or look in your vehicle. The key here is understanding that police do not ask for permission if they do not have to. If police had authority to search your car they would do it without asking you. The fact that they are asking is a huge tip off that you actually hold the cards here. Even if you feel like you do not actually have a choice and you have to say yes, say no. The benefit of whatever goodwill you are hoping to inspire by saying yes is far outweighed by the massive legal handicap you will create for yourself by doing so.
What Consenting to a Vehicle Search Really Means
There are three ways that an officer can legally search your vehicle. First, they can have probable cause. This means that they had an articulable reason to pull you over and another reason to believe they would find evidence of a crime if they were to search your car, such as the smell of alcohol on your breath or a weapon or drugs in plain sight. The second way is with a legal search warrant issued by the magistrate. In order to get a search warrant the officer has to articulate probable cause. The third way is by getting your consent. If the police officer is asking for your consent, they are affirming that they do not have probable cause or a warrant. This also means that if you say no and they search your vehicle anyway, anything they find will be thrown out in court due to the illegal search. So even if it feels like you should just agree because they will do it anyway, saying no still has its benefits. It is important to remember that by consenting to a search you are also eliminating two possible means of challenging any evidence allegedly found against you that could otherwise potentially be used to have the case dismissed.