The problems of the modern world have brought a heightened and vigilant police presence to many communities. However, most people are unaware of their rights when talking to the police after an officer asks to search their belongings.
Many people’s understanding of their rights is blurred by TV crime dramas and sensational news stories. Whether or not you think you have something to hide, it is important to know what your rights are when asked to be searched.
The Constitution Protects You
The Fourth Amendment protects you against unreasonable searches and seizures. Unless the police have substantial evidence to believe that you have committed a crime, they must ask your permission before they search you or your property.
The Constitution gives you the right to refuse police searches anywhere, except when crossing the border and when going through airport security.
Refusing a Search Can Protect You
If the police search you without having evidence and without your consent and find anything illegal, refusing a search can protect you later in court. If the police cannot prove that the search was based on evidence indicating your involvement in a crime, you might be able to win your case.
Moreover, police routinely ask to conduct searches when they have no evidence of your being involved in wrongdoing. If you refuse the search, the officer will often not continue with the search, as nothing that may be found could be used against you in court.
Searches Can Waste Your Time, Damage Your Property
A vehicle search alone may take more than 30 minutes. While a search of a home can take much longer. In addition, during the search itself, officers do not have to be especially careful with your property or valuables and do not have to return everything to its place.
When faced with a search request, knowing and asserting your rights can help you from unknowingly getting into a bad situation.
Source: Huffington Post, “5 Reasons You Should Never Agree to a Police Search (Even if You Have Nothing to Hide),” Scott Morgan, Feb. 21, 2012.