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When can police search people’s cars?

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

People in Oregon generally keep things that are important to them or things they do not want others to see in their homes or hidden in other places. When they put possessions in places hidden from the general public, they expect that they will remain hidden until they want others to see them. People even have constitutional protections that prevent the police from conducting unreasonable searches of their homes and other property they intend to keep hidden.

The level of protection that people have depend on where they keep things hidden. People generally have the most protections for their homes. There are some exceptions, but for the most part, police need to have a warrant to search people’s homes. People have fewer protections against searches of their vehicles though.

Valid reasons to search a vehicle without a warrant

Under Oregon law, people can be stopped in their vehicles if they commit a traffic violation. This can include speeding, running a stop sign, failing to signal a turn and other traffic violations. Stops for these reasons by themselves do not give police the right to search the vehicle though.

Once the vehicle is stopped, if the police have probable cause to believe that the driver or passengers are engaged in other illegal activity, they can search the vehicle for evidence of that crime without a warrant. Police can also search the vehicle if the driver or passenger gives consent to search it.

The other way that police can search a vehicle is if they impound it because the driver cannot legally drive it. If they impound it, they can conduct an inventory search to account for the property inside the vehicle. If they find evidence of crimes during an inventory search, the owner can be charged with a crime.

Searches of vehicles in Oregon can produce evidence of crimes and result in criminal charges for the drivers or passengers. Some of these searches violate the law. If they do, any evidence obtained in the search could be suppressed and convictions become unlikely. Experienced attorneys understand the legality of searches and seizures and may be able to guide one through the process.