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Can the Police Search My Car? Here’s the Important Information You Need to Know When Facing Criminal Charges in Orange County, California- 2022

September 8, 2022

police search of car search in criminal case in Orange County, California best criminal defense lawyers

Can the Police Search My Car?

If you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime in Orange County, California, one of the first things you’ll want to know is whether or not the police can search your car.

This is an important question, as the answer can significantly impact the outcome of your case. This blog post will provide an overview of search and seizure law in California.

We will discuss when the police are allowed to search your car and when they are not. We will also talk about what you can do if the police search your car unlawfully.

What Law Protects My Car From a Police Search?

Most people are familiar with the concept of search and seizure. This constitutional right protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

This amendment applies to all search and seizure activity conducted by government officials, including police officers. For a search to be constitutional, it must be reasonable.

This means that the search must be conducted in a manner that is not excessively intrusive and must be based on a legitimate law enforcement purpose.

For example, if the police have probable cause to believe that you have committed a crime, they may search your car for evidence of the crime.

When Can the Police Legally Search My Car?

There are a few scenarios where the police can legally search your car.

Probable Cause

In most situations, police need a vehicle warrant to search your car. However, if the officer has probable cause, they may not need a warrant. Probable cause exists when there is a reasonable belief, based on factual evidence, that you have committed a crime.

For example, if an officer has probable cause to believe that your car contains illegal items or evidence of a crime, he is authorized to search your car without a warrant. 


Another scenario where the police can search your car is when you give the police officers permission.

For example, if you are pulled over for a traffic violation and the officer asks to search your car, and you say yes and give them permission to do so, anything they find can be used as evidence against you.

However, it’s important to note that you are not required to give the police consent to search your car and should never voluntarily consent to have your car searched.

The officers are looking for a reason to charge you with a crime. Do not give them an opportunity to find a reason. If an officer asks for your consent, you can politely decline and say that you do not wish to have your car searched.

Terry Stop / Frisk

A Terry stop is a type of search in which an officer temporarily detains a person if there is reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.

During a Terry stop, the officer may frisk the individual for weapons.

If an officer conducts a Terry stop and frisks you, he may also search your car if he has reason to believe there is a weapon inside. The search of your vehicle is very limited and only arises if the officer has reason to believe that there is a weapon inside the car and the occupant may have access to a weapon there.

What Are the Consequences of an Illegal Search and Seizure?

If the police search your car without probable cause or consent, they may be violating your constitutional rights. If this happens, you may be able to file a motion to suppress the evidence that was obtained as a result of the illegal search.

A motion to suppress is a legal challenge to evidence obtained through an illegal search and seizure. If the court grants your motion, the evidence will not be allowed to be used against you at trial. This could potentially lead to the dismissal of your case.

If you believe your constitutional rights have been violated, you should speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney.

An attorney can help you determine if the search and seizure was legal and, if not, whether or not filing a motion to suppress is the best option in your case.

Inventory Search

An inventory search is a type of search that is conducted when a person is arrested and their car is impounded. The purpose of an inventory search is to catalog the car’s contents so that nothing is lost or stolen while it is in police custody.

During an inventory search, the police are allowed to open any containers that are in the car. However, they are not allowed to search through the contents of those containers.

For example, if a backpack is in your vehicle, the police can open it and look inside. However, they cannot search your belongings to look for evidence of a crime (that doesn’t mean they follow these rules).

If you are arrested, and your car is impounded, the police will likely conduct an inventory search. However, you may be able to prevent this from happening by asking a friend or family member to remove your belongings from your car before it is impounded.

Warrant Searches

A warrant search is a type of search that is conducted when the police have a warrant that authorizes them to search your car. A warrant must be based on probable cause and must be authorized and signed by a judge.

If the police have a warrant to search your car, they can conduct a thorough search of the entire vehicle. This includes opening any containers that are inside the car.

If the police search your car and find evidence of a crime, you may be arrested and charged with a crime. If this happens, you should speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Exigent Circumstances

Exigent circumstances are circumstances in which the police can search your car without a warrant or consent. Exigent circumstances typically arise when the police are in hot pursuit of a suspect and believe the suspect has evidence in their car.

The police may search your car without a warrant or your consent if exigent circumstances exist. However, the search must be limited to those areas of the vehicle where the evidence is likely to be found.

For example, if the police are pursuing a suspect and they find him in the kitchen of an apartment, they cannot then subsequently search the bedroom once they’ve apprehended the suspect.


If you or a loved one is a charged with criminal charges in court because of a police search, you need the criminal defense lawyers at ALL Trial Lawyers by your side. The attorneys at ALL Trial Lawyers are trial attorneys with years of experience.

They know the law and are not afraid to take your case to trial.

In addition, they have a strong reputation among judges and prosecutors throughout Southern California, which has delivered tremendous victories for their clients.

Our ultimate goal is to provide the best results that can be achieved in your case— whether by way of outright dismissal, a favorable plea bargain deal, or an acquittal of the charges at trial.

With ALL Trial Lawyers by your side, you can rest assured that the criminal team will be giving you their all.

Call (866) 811-4255 right now for your free consultation.

We have an office located near you. We have experience fighting cases in Orange County, Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County, Riverside County, and San Diego County.

If you have been accused or charged of a crime due to a police search, you must speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you navigate the legal system and protect your rights.

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