Our firm has handled an untold number of criminal defense cases over the years. Multiple times, I’ve had people tell me that there is no reason why, if a driver gets pulled over by a police officer who then asks to search the car, that driver should refuse consent to the search. After all, if you’re not guilty, you’ve got nothing to hide, right? So let the officer search, right? WRONG WRONG WRONG. So wrong. Here’s one reason why.
Let’s think about who gets in your car on any given day. Your high-schooler and his teenage friends? Your buddy from work, during a smoke break? Your new girlfriend that you’ve been seeing a couple of months, and maybe her friends? Your on again, off again boyfriend? Your cousin who just lost her job, has no money for gas, and needs a ride to pick up her kids from daycare? Your elderly uncle who doesn’t drive well any longer and needs a ride to the grocery store?
You may “know” the people in your life, and who you let in your car, but you don’t know everything about them. You don’t know that they aren’t concealing a drug problem; you don’t know that they didn’t hide something under your seat to retrieve later; you don’t know that some pills (or something else) didn’t fall out of their pocket or purse without their own knowledge. You think you know what’s in your car at any given moment, but you really don’t. And when you allow the police to search your car, you may think you know your car is clean of any contraband – until that officer finds the hidden drug pipe or lost baggie of pills, and suddenly you’re the one catching criminal charges. After all, it’s your car, and you’re the one driving around illegal items. Next thing you know, you’re the one getting cuffed.
If you get pulled over, remain polite and obedient to the officer. In no way am I advocating that you resist the police as they try to do their jobs. However, no matter how innocent you are: do not consent to a search of your vehicle. You don’t know what may be found, and you won’t know – until it’s too late.