Getting pulled over by the police can result in a warning, a traffic ticket — or getting arrested and charged with a serious crime like drug possession with intent to distribute. Of course, what happens to you mostly depends on if you have illegal substances in your vehicle, and if the officer who pulled you over decides they want to search your vehicle.
Reasonable suspicion and vehicle searches
Oklahoma City police and local sheriff’s deputies do not have the unlimited power to search your car. But they often can do so legally without a search warrant. Under the law, if the officer can claim a reasonable suspicion that you are committing a crime inside your vehicle, they have the right to conduct a search for evidence of that crime, such as drugs or drug paraphernalia. Their suspicion has to be clear enough that they can explain it later.
Consent and your right to privacy
Another exception to the search warrant requirement is when the driver consents to the search. It is important to know that when a police officer asks permission to search your car, you do not have to say yes. But if you decline permission, the officer might arrest you and hold you in their squad car until another officer brings a warrant.
Most of all, while you should always be polite and calm during a police stop, you do not have to incriminate yourself by answering the officer’s questions or consenting to a search. And if the police possibly violated your rights during a search, you and your attorney can challenge the legality of that search in court. If the judge agrees that the search was illegal, he or she could throw out the evidence seized during the search.