When a law enforcement officer asks to search your person or any of your property, your answer should always be “no.” Without exception, you should, as politely as possible, refuse any request for a search at all times. The only reason you are asked to consent to a search is because there is no legal right to search you or your property, absent a warrant.
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees to all people freedom from illegal searches and seizures. Consequently, if an officer asks you for permission to search, he is doing so because without consent, the search would be illegal and in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. But, once you say “yes” to his request, that search becomes legal.
While there are MANY reasons to refuse a request for a search, below is a list of a few important ones to remember:
- You have the Constitutional right to refuse searches.
- Once you refuse the search, anything found, which causes you to be later arrested, may not brought as evidence against you.
- Alternatively, anything found, during a search that you consented to, can and will be used against you.
Many times, you may believe you must agree to allow a search, especially when law enforcement officers use statements like “I just need to look through your car,” “I need to check what you have in your pockets,” or, “(y)ou don’t mind if I look through your car, right?” However, when law enforcement officers make these statements, they are attempting to get you to agree to the search by stating it in a way that makes you believe you do not have a choice.
After being asked, if you step aside and let them search, put your hands out at your sides so you can be searched, or nod toward your vehicle, you are consenting to the search. Even without explicitly saying yes, you have exposed yourself to a potential seizure of your cash and vehicle and a potential arrest based on items found within your car.
Whenever you are asked, always answer “no.” It is the only way to protect yourself from a search of your person or your property. It is your right to say “no.”