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Can Pennsylvania police search your car without a warrant?

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2022 | drunk driving |

Being pulled over by a police officer is a fairly routine event that many drivers have experienced. If the officer sees what they believe to be an illegal substance, though, they might request to conduct a thorough search of your vehicle.

As a Pennsylvania citizen, it is important for you to know your roadside rights. Understanding when the police may or may not search your car without a warrant is crucial for being an informed driver.

When can you deny a roadside search?

Prior to a 2020 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, a police officer could search your vehicle without a warrant if there was a “probable cause” to do so. Following that ruling, there must also be exigent circumstances that justify a search without a warrant. This means that you have the right to refuse a roadside search if the officer is warrantless. If an officer continues to search your vehicle without a warrant, a court will review the case to determine if appropriate exigent circumstances were present.

When are the police allowed to search your car?

It goes without saying that the police may search your car with your permission or with your admission of being under the influence. Otherwise, the officer must secure the vehicle and obtain a warrant before proceeding with an invasive search.

Knowing your roadside rights goes beyond simply understanding the necessity of a warrant. You should know exactly what to do when the police stop you. If you feel that a violation of your rights occurs during a traffic stop, contact an attorney that can advocate for your case.