Is it Legal for the Police to Search my Car, Home or Person?


At Grabel & Associates, our Michigan drug defense attorneys know that the one factor which separates an average defense lawyer from an effective one is understanding how to defend clients when an illegal search is performed by police officers or other law enforcement agencies. If you or a loved one have been arrested for a drug crime or are under investigation, police may have searched your car, home, or person. Was the search legal? This is a question we will address below. However, it is important you understand that when an illegal search is performed, it may be possible to have any evidence obtained in that search suppressed in court; in other words, this evidence may not be used as direct evidence against the accused individual in criminal court.

The fact is, citizens' civil rights are violated frequently by police or other law enforcement who perform illegal searches. Are you required to submit to a search of your vehicle, home, or person? No. In fact, it is advised that you do not consent to the search, although police will attempt to intimidate you by telling you they will obtain a search warrant. Many people believe that a police officer can get a search warrant simply by requesting it, but this is not the case.

Police Must Have Specific, Probable Cause to Obtain a Search Warrant

When a police officer requests to search your car, home, or your person, respectfully and calmly tell him or her you refuse to consent. It is a mistake to allow law enforcement to bully you into consenting to a search. Police will use any tactic possible to persuade you to consent, even going to such measures as accusing you of having something to hide, otherwise you would consent. Do not fall for these tactics. Both in Michigan and the United States, it is your right to refuse a search; contact our office immediately.

In order to obtain a search warrant, police must go the judge and request the warrant, convincing him or her regarding a specific or probable cause for the warrant. Therefore, it is a good idea when an officer threatens to obtain a warrant exactly what it is he or she is searching for. If officers can give the judge probable cause, they can give it to you as well. Refusing to give officers permission to search your car, home, or person is not in itself probable or specific cause.

When Can Police Perform a Search Without a Warrant?

There are certain exceptions to the search warrant requirement, one being if you consent to officer's request to search your property. Other than giving your consent, officers may search without obtaining a warrant under the following conditions:

Plain Smell/PlainView. When a police officer sees or smells something while he/she is standing beside your car or walking by your home such as marijuana or drug paraphernalia (a crack pipe, joint, other items obviously related to drug use) the officer may perform a search without a warrant.

Administrative Search. If you were arrested for having drugs in your car, police may legally have your car towed to the police station. They may then perform a thorough search of your vehicle in order to determine if other drugs may exist.

Automobile Exception. Unfortunately, individuals have few rights when it comes to having their vehicle searched after being pulled over for a traffic infraction, DUI, etc. An officer may search your vehicle for almost any reason without a warrant.

SIA, or Search Incident to Arrest. When an individual is arrested in his or her vehicle or home, police have the right to perform what is often referred to a "Wingspan" search. This is a search performed to ensure there are no weapons or other individuals who may pose a threat or harm officers.

When you are under investigation or have been arrested for a drug crime, it is critical that you obtain the support and legal guidance of an attorney who is thoroughly familiar with unreasonable or illegal search. Contact our highly regarded team of Michigan drug crime defense attorneys at Grabel & Associates today by calling our toll free number at 1-800-342-7896 or contact us online.


With Attorney's statewide, Grabel & Associates defend people accused of criminal charges throughout the state of Michigan including the communities of Lansing, East Lansing, Grand Rapids, Holland, Muskegon, Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Pinconning, Kalamazoo, Mount Pleasant, Bay City, Saginaw, Brant, Traverse City, Ludington, Allegan, Hillsdale, Lapeer, Port Huron, Ann Arbor, and Detroit.