A routine traffic stop on a Tennessee road may lead an officer to ask you some questions such as if you are carrying any weapons, are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or whether you consent to a search of your vehicle.

Generally, under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures, a warrant is required for police to conduct a search of your vehicle. There are some exceptions to this, as is the case with vehicle searches. The exceptions for requiring a warrant for vehicle searches include:

  1. A search incident to a valid arrest
  2. When there is probable cause to search the vehicle
  3. When the car has been impounded
  4. When consent has been given

When a driver of a vehicle is arrested, the police may only search the entire passenger compartment as well as containers in the area, not the trunk. Under probable cause exception, if police have sufficient and objective reason to believe that drugs or evidence of a crime are present in the vehicle, they can conduct a warrantless search of the entire vehicle.

Police can also obtain consent from the driver to search the vehicle. The consent has to be unequivocal, intelligently given, and free of duress or coercion in order for the search to be valid in court. In the state of Tennessee, if you refuse to consent to a search, the officer will most likely have to accept your refusal and let you go unless he or she has probable cause to conduct a search. Courts have ruled that police cannot presume wrongdoing merely from a driver’s refusal to consent to a search.

Vehicle searches are all different and fact-specific, and as such, should be reviewed by an experienced attorney in central Tennessee, serving Spring Hill, Brentwood, Murfreesboro, Lawrenceburg, Pulaski, Columbia. For more on meeting with an attorney and what to provide them with click here.