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How to keep the police from looking in your vehicle

On Behalf of | May 20, 2024 | Criminal Defense

It’s intimidating to look into your rearview mirror and see those red and blue flashing lights from a police car – and it’s even more intimidating to have an officer come up and poke their head into your car window.

Even if you have nothing to hide, a traffic stop can turn into a serious legal issue if the officer spots something in your vehicle that they deem suspicious in nature. 

How do you protect yourself from unwanted and unnecessary intrusions on your privacy? Here are some tips:

Get your phone out and start recording

Virginia is a one-party consent state, so only one person involved in a conversation has to agree to permit a recording of the encounter – and that’s you. Start recording your encounter (and, if possible, make sure that the feed continuously uploads to the Cloud as you go) to discourage illegal intrusions on your rights.

Decline permission for a vehicle search

An officer’s casual, “Do you mind if I look around your vehicle?” is anything but friendly. Assume that you’re under suspicion of transporting drugs, driving while intoxicated or hiding other contraband items. Officers are trained to push suspects into granting permission for vehicle searches so that they can get away with not using a warrant. 

If you politely decline a search, the officer will have no other option (unless you’re arrested for something else) than to try to justify a warrant for a search, and that’s not always easy. At a minimum, this tactic will protect your rights and can lay the grounds for a legal challenge over the search and anything that’s found.

Keep your window raised as far as possible

You don’t need to lower your window all the way down to accommodate the officer. You can open it just enough to converse and pass your documents to the officer for examination.

Don’t refuse to take the ticket

You may get a ticket, especially if the officer is irked at your forthrightness and the fact that you’re asserting your rights. Accept it gracefully and sign it, or you can be arrested (and then your vehicle can be searched). You can always fight the ticket later.

If a traffic stop does turn into a criminal charge, invoke your right to remain silent until you can explore your defense options. 

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