When can you be SEARCHED by a law enforcement officer?

Written by Thom Goolsby


You are NEVER required to consent to a search. If possible, before taking any action, talk to an attorney. It may even be possible to call an attorney from the scene of the incident.

Even without your consent, there are a number of situations when law enforcement may conduct a search of you, your automobile, house or other areas in your control (with exceptions), these situations include:

  • You consent to the search. Remember, you have the right to say no.
  • Law enforcement has specifically obtained a warrant to conduct the search.
  • If you are lawfully arrested, law enforcement can search your body and the area immediately within your reach and control.
  • If law enforcement has reason to suspect that you are armed and dangerous, then they may frisk you and search the area immediately around you for weapons.
  • Law enforcement can search a stopped vehicle if there is probable cause to believe it contains evidence of a crime or contraband or for inventory purposes if it is impounded.
  • If law enforcement is pursuing a suspect.

Law enforcement officials may violate individuals’ rights while conducting searches. While such violations may later be relevant in a trial relating to charges associated with those searches, you should refrain from improperly resisting law enforcement — no matter how wrong you may think they are. You will have a chance to defend yourself in court at a later date!

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