When Can Police Search Your Car in Massachusetts?

Being stopped by the police can be a frightening experience. If you are stopped while driving, you may be subjected to a search of your vehicle. If this is the case, it’s important that you understand your rights and whether the search is legal. If you have any questions, reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney. 

When a Police Officer Can Stop Your Car

In order for a police officer to stop your car while you are driving, they must have “reasonable suspicion.” Reasonable suspicion is the standard that is required to stop the vehicle, but not that which is required to actually search the vehicle. Essentially, this standard holds that the police must have some valid reason to believe that the occupants of the vehicle have committed or are about to commit a crime. For example, if you’re speeding, this meets the standard as it is illegal to drive above the speed limit. The police cannot stop your car simply because they feel like it, don’t like the look of your car, etc. 

When a Police Officer Can Search Your Car

While a police officer can stop your car if you have committed a crime or it is believed that you are about to commit a crime, they cannot search your car unless:

  1. They have probable cause to do so;
  2. They have a search warrant; or
  3. You have given consent to have your vehicle searched.

Probable cause is a higher standard than reasonable suspicion, and is also the standard that is needed to obtain a search warrant. An example of probable cause is a police officer actually seeing something illegal within the vehicle at the time of stop, such as an open bottle of alcohol or a bag of drugs. 

What to Do to Protect Your Rights

If you are stopped by the police, it’s important that you know what to do to protect your rights during the search. Here are some tips:

  1. Always remain polite and courteous. Do not get angry, raise your voice, or fail to adhere to the police officer’s orders.
  2. Provide the police officer with your name, driver’s license, and vehicle registration and insurance.
  3. Do not consent to a search of your vehicle. If the police officer asks to search your vehicle, politely decline. 
  4. If you are arrested, charged, if anything from your vehicle is taken, or if your vehicle is illegally searched, call an attorney immediately. 

Call The Law Offices of Paul R. Moraski Today 

At The Law Offices of Paul R. Moraski, our experienced criminal defense attorney can represent you if you have been the victim of an illegal search and seizure or are facing charges related to a traffic stop. To learn more, please call our law office directly at (978) 397-0011 or send us a message online at your convenience.