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Can Police Search Your Car During a DUI Stop?

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    If you find yourself in a situation where the police stop you on the road because they suspect you may be driving while intoxicated, they may ask to search your car. But is that allowed without a warrant? Keep reading to find out in which cases the police can and cannot search your vehicle on the road.

    Can Police Search Your Car During a DUI Stop?

    Automobile Exception

    In principle, the Fourth Amendment protects you against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” That is, a warrant would normally be required to conduct a search, and it would not be legal for an arbitrary search to be conducted.

    However, courts tend to be more lenient when it comes to cars because the expectation of privacy is considered to be lower in a vehicle. In addition, it is not always practical to wait to obtain a warrant because of the mobile nature of the car, as there is a legitimate public safety concern associated with impaired driving. On top of this, important evidence could easily be hidden or destroyed with the help of a car.


    Probable Cause

    Probable Cause

    The most common case in which the police can search your car without a warrant is under “probable cause”. This means that the police must demonstrate that they had reasonable suspicion that you were driving under the influence. This can include a minor traffic violation, bad driving such as driving too slowly or driving erratically, or even personal observation such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, cans or bottles of alcohol in plain view, or odor of alcohol.


    Security Concerns 

    Another case in which they may search your car is if they are justifiably concerned for their safety or the safety of others. That is, the police may conduct a search to protect themselves or others if they suspect that you have a weapon in your vehicle.


    Impounded Vehicle

    The police may search your vehicle if it was impounded. Normally, in this case, the officers are authorized to conduct an “inventory search”. This procedure is not a search for evidence of a crime but rather is intended to ensure that no theft or accusations of theft are made to the police during the period of the impoundment. Remember that the police cannot impound a car for the sole purpose of searching it.


    Lawful Arrest

    Lawful Arrest

    If you are being lawfully arrested, the police will be able to search your vehicle. In this case, the police must have reasonable suspicion that they will find evidence in your car related to the crime you are accused of. For example, if you are charged with a drug-related crime, they may justify the search on the grounds that they are looking for illegal substances.


    Finally, the police can search your car if you give your consent. If the officer asks if they can search your vehicle and you say yes, they have the right to do so. This is why it is important to keep in mind the Fourth Amendment and the exceptions mentioned above. This way, you will know in which cases you will be able to decline a search.

    The evidence collected by the police will not be valid to be used against you in court if the search was not legal. Keep in mind that the circumstances justifying the search may be subjective so it is best to have legal assistance. Do not try to fight the police or stop the search yourself. Contact a lawyer to better defend yourself if you believe that none of the conditions for a search were met.

    At AMS Law Group, we have attorneys with extensive experience in DWI and DUI. We understand the protocols that the police must follow in DUI proceedings, so we will thoroughly analyze your case to know what defense is available. Contact us as soon as possible to ensure that the process follows the law and so that we can seek the best possible solution for you.

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