Understanding Your Rights in a Consent Search of Your Vehicle in Tennessee

Understanding Your Rights in a Consent Search of Your Vehicle in TennesseeMost Americans are familiar with their right to protection against unreasonable search and seizure if not from high school civics class, then at least from a good TV crime drama. Let’s say you find yourself in the position of being pulled over by a police officer when you are driving on I-65 in Franklin on your way home from the Walmart late one evening.

You have turned on the dome light in your car and your hands are resting on the steering wheel in full view of the officer when she appears at your window. You wish the officer a cordial, “Good evening” and she asks to see your license and registration. You lean over and pull the paperwork from the glove box and hand it to the officer. After she returns to your vehicle with your paperwork, she hands your documents back and asks, “You don’t have any weapons or drugs or dead bodies in your vehicle, do you? You don’t care if I take a quick look, right?”

Here is where you take a deep breath and you muster up your most casual and polite tone of voice despite being nervous and frightened at being held by the police, late at night without even knowing what they pulled you over in the first place. This is where you have two choices: You can consent to the search or you can refuse the search.

  • Consenting to a search. If the officer asks you if she can search your vehicle and you give consent she can search only within the limited scope of where you have allowed them to search. Anything found outside of the scope of your consent would be inadmissible in court. Your giving consent overrides the police’s requirement to obtain a search warrant and the need to have probable cause for the search. Just remember that you are never required to give consent to law enforcement to search your vehicle.
  • Refusing the search. The officer asks if she can take a quick look in your car, and you respond calmly, “I do not consent to this search.” You do not have to answer any more questions. Refusing to allow the officer to search your vehicle does not mean that you are guilty or hiding anything. It just means that you are exercising your Constitutional right. After you have refused the search you can ask the officer if they are detaining you, or if you are free to go. If they say that you are not free to go, you can exercise your right to remain silent and ask for your lawyer.

We cannot think of any good reason to consent to a search other than you being unable to refuse because you feel intimidated. If you believe that a law enforcement officer tried to harass, trick or coerce you into consenting to a search, you should contact a Franklin criminal defense attorney from the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, who will make sure that your rights are protected.

If you get pulled over for a routine traffic stop, do you understand your rights when it comes to the question of whether the police officer can search your car? Facing criminal charges in Columbia or Brentwood can be an intimidating experience. At the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, an aggressive criminal defense attorney will take on the legal battle on your behalf and make sure that your rights are protected. You are welcome to call 615-977-9370 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment with a skilled Franklin criminal defense attorney today. We also serve clients from our offices in Brentwood and Columbia.