LAWYER: You Should NEVER Consent to a Car Search

By July 14, 2023August 18th, 2023Criminal Defense

Is it ever okay to give consent for the police to search you or your car? In short, the answer is no. In fact, that’s part of the reason why I wanted to create this video. I’m Jeff Hampton with Hampton criminal defense attorneys in the north Texas area, and I wanted to respond to several comments that I had from viewers on my YouTube Channel. I posted a video not long ago entitled “Are Drug Dogs Really Reliable? The Shocking Truth About Your Rights During Searches,” and as a result of that, I had a number of comments on that video that I wanted to address in this follow-up video to get into more depth on some of those points.

One of the questions I received is, one of the viewers asked me a question: “Is there a time when I should give consent to search to the police? If they’re going to get a warrant or bring a drug dog out anyway, maybe I should just consent and get it over with.” Can I tell you right now, the answer is that you should never, under any circumstance, consent to a search by the police. By law, you are never required to consent to a search. And in fact, signing a consent form or doing anything, you’ve got to be extremely careful not to waive your constitutional rights.

Now, in part of this video, I gave the example, and part of that previous video I gave an example about what if the police pull you over for a traffic violation and ask to search your car? Should you give consent? And of course, the answer to that is no. But let me first reiterate, you can simply say if they pull you over and they think they want to search your vehicle, the simple response to give is, “Sir, you do not have permission to search my car.” Very simple, not combative, nothing Else, just say those words: “Sir, you do not have permission to search my car.”

Now, a question I received in response to that example was, “Well, what do I do if the police say that they will just have to go get the drug dog or they’ll just go get a warrant if I don’t consent to the search? What am I supposed to do then?” Well, it’s real simple. The fact of the matter is you have absolutely no control over what the police decide to do in their investigation or in their search. You can only control what your responses are to the police and you can control the rights you choose to exercise in order to protect yourself.

LAWYER: You Should NEVER Consent to a Car Search

Now, what is within your control is how you choose to reiterate to them over and over again: “Sir, you do not have permission to search my car.” Now, even if the police threatened to bring the drug dog, what if they do threaten? So what? What if they say, “Hey, we’re going to bring the drug dog out here” or “I’m going to call over to a magistrate right now and I’m going to get a warrant to search your car”?

By the way, if they already could have gotten a warrant, they would have, and you’d be going to jail right now. You would be under arrest. But they don’t have that. They don’t have enough evidence to already arrest you. Then they don’t have the evidence yet. So the reality of it is, you must continue to assert, “Sir, I do not give you consent to search my car.”

Now, here’s the problem. I’ve heard it hundreds of times. I’ve had clients that I’ve represented. I’ve had people through the YouTube channel that have brought this sort of issue up. Clients tell me, “Yeah, but you don’t understand how stressful it is when you’re there on the side of the road and the police are staring at you.” You feel the weight of their authority over you, and you’re afraid that it’s going to get worse, it just seemed to be pointless to me at that point, so I gave up and I gave in. Now, at this point, people will feel tempted to give up, and the police are essentially counting on that. They’re trying to make you feel like if you’re innocent, there’s no reason you shouldn’t just agree to let them do what they want. But the reality of it is, let’s assume they do go get a drug dog and follow through with that threat and they’re going to now try to go get a warrant or go get a drug dog to show up to search the vehicle.

Well, at this point, so what? They are going to do what they’re going to do. But if they took longer than they should have and an unreasonable amount of time has passed, that will be warranted as not only an unreasonable but an illegal search that could then provide you some flexibility to help you with your case. So it’s important that you do not give up and you do not consent to the search when they apply that pressure to you.

Now, the law and your rights will remain intact as long as you stand by those rights. You’ve got to stand on them. Now, remember, and I tell people this, you’d have nothing to feel ashamed of. It is absolutely your constitutional right to deny consent to search in any capacity, whether it’s your vehicle, whether it’s your home, whether it’s your person in any regard. And regardless of what the police tactics may be or what their statements are, stay firm, refuse to give consent.

I want to remind you that under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, It limits specifically and is written for the purpose of limiting how the police can do a search of you, your car, your property, and your home. And if the police violate these rules, your lawyer can then request that the evidence be found in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, and they can file what’s known as a motion to suppress.

I used to be a prosecutor for five and a half years. I’ve been doing defense work for 15 plus years. The reality of it is that police illegally seize evidence all the time. The problem is, if you need to make sure that you have exercised your rights so that you can equip your attorney to go in and file that motion to suppress, it can be based upon what’s known as the Fourth Amendment provision on illegal search and seizure, known as the exclusionary rule.

That means if that evidence was illegally obtained, that motion to suppress allows a hearing that is heard, and anything that was illegally obtained must be excluded from consideration in any type of trial, and it cannot be used to establish guilt against you. But here’s what’s key, and I always remind people this: Consent to the search, the moment you choose to consent to the search, consent cures all for the police. You’ve given them carte blanche authority to be able to come in and do whatever they want to do. And so, we don’t need to give them a free pass. You’re guaranteeing that information that’s gathered could be misconstrued, it could be manipulated, it could be used in some way to somehow try to make you look to be guilty for something you may not have done whatsoever.

So, the example of the traffic stop and the threat of the drug dog or the warrant being issued, there are limitations that the law places on the police, and I want you to pay attention to this part because it’s super important. Many people don’t know this, but the law imposes limitations on how long the police can detain someone under various circumstances and one of the best examples of that is you have to understand the difference between a detention versus an arrest, a very big difference. When the police arrest you, you’re done. They take you to jail. It’s pretty clear. You’re in handcuffs, you’re in the back of the car, you’re headed to the jail. But when they detain you, detention is always temporary. A detention can turn into an arrest, but in the case of a traffic stop, it always starts off as a detention. It is the most common detention that there is in criminal law.

So, when you’re detained, they pull you over, you’re not free to leave in that moment. But they cannot hold you for an unreasonable amount of time. That’s what the Constitution says.

Now, what are the limits on how long the police can detain someone? Well, in the case of a traffic stop, the Supreme Court has come down specifically stating that the police can only detain a motorist for as long as necessary to make sure and address the purpose of the stop.

Let’s say you’re being pulled over for a traffic ticket, maybe a speeding ticket or something like that. They can only hold you as long as it takes to process that ticket and move on. So, if they’re investigating related to a traffic violation, they can’t just keep you parked on the side of the road for hours. The detention must be reasonably brief, according to what the law says, and the officer cannot extend the stop beyond that period of time without separate suspicion of another offense. That’s what the law says. It’s really important.

So, it’s essential to be aware of these limitations and understand your rights during a detention or search and by asserting your rights by standing on those rights, refusing to consent to search, you’re putting yourself in the best opportunity to be able to get what that officer is doing illegally thrown out in court.

Now, here’s the key: as long as is reasonably necessary to issue the traffic ticket, whatever it is, a speeding ticket or whatever. If the police detain you any longer than that, then the detention is now in violation of the Constitution. In fact, Texas criminal case law states there are a couple of cases that I’m going to cite to you here.  One of the things I’m going to go over with you here, here’s what they determined: Police officers may request a certain amount of information from the driver. They can ask for a driver’s license, registration, conduct a computer check on that information. But it’s only after that computer check is completed, the officer now knows they have a current valid license, no outstanding warrants, the car is not stolen. At that point, the traffic stop investigation is fully resolved, and the detention must end so that the individual is permitted to leave.

So, you understand there are a few things the police do have a right to ask for. They can check on those matters. Okay, so I had some pushback on one of my previous videos saying, “No, you don’t have to give that information to the police.” Actually, you do. You do have to give some of that to the police. They have to make sure what they’re dealing with. If they pull you over for a valid traffic violation, it’s limited to that activity and the issuing of that citation. So, it’s important that you realize that.

So, during a detention for a traffic stop, an officer may not detain a motorist longer than as reasonably necessary to issue the ticket. So, could they claim they’re going to go get a drug dog? Sure, they can claim that. Can they claim they’re going to go find some judge somewhere to get a warrant if you don’t cooperate with them? Absolutely, they can claim to do all of those things. But the reality of it is, the longer you’re sitting there and you’re standing on your constitutional rights, the higher the probability the whole thing is going to be thrown out in court because of what the law says. Okay, so it’s really important.

Now, here’s critical. Here are your steps.

Step #1: Always refuse consent to a search.

Step #2: Make it clear that you do not agree to be detained any longer than is reasonably necessary for the issuance of the ticket. So, never make statements that the officer could imply you are waiving your constitutional rights. And what I mean by that is, we’re going to go over this. I know this might feel a little awkward, okay, but here’s a way in order to protect yourself in this situation.

Let’s say that they come to you, and they ask to repeat to you over and over again, asking to do a search of your vehicle. The appropriate response is to say, “Officer, I do not give consent to a search of my vehicle.” Very simple, “I do not give consent to a search of my vehicle.” What if the officer says, “Hey, listen, do you mind just waiting for us to get a drug dog? We’re going to bring a drug dog out here, and then we’ll have you on your way.” Once again, officer, I refuse to give consent to search my vehicle.

Okay, then what if the officer says, “Well, listen, man, I’m trying to be nice, but here’s the deal. If you’re not going to play ball with me, then I’m going to go get a drug dog and I’m going to go get a warrant, and you’re going to jail today.” Officer, I refuse to give consent to search my vehicle. Now, what if the officer continues to hold you and nothing’s happening? What if you’re just continuing to sit there on the side of the road, he’s not issuing you that citation he claims to have pulled you over for? You could then ask, “Officer, am I free to go?” And as he begins to tell you no, because he’s going to tell you no, then you can say, “Officer, I refuse consent for you to search my vehicle.” And these are the only things you need to say. You do not get into any type of conversation with the officer one way or the other.

Some people say, “Yeah, but why? You should just be quiet, not say anything.” By your refusing consent and asking if you’re free to leave, you are now giving the judge or the jury the opportunity to review the reasonableness of the length of the detention. And the clearer you are that you did not give consent and that you were asking to leave and that you no longer wanted to be there, it’s very clear, the more scrutinized the officer’s actions will be when it comes to Fourth Amendment analysis.

So remember, if you consent to a search, you’ve giving up all of your rights. Now, the police can do whatever they want. They can pin some of this stuff on you, and maybe it wasn’t even yours. Maybe you’re in a car and there are other people in the car. It’s really important to understand that. But if you refuse the search and you hold your ground and you repeat, “I do not consent to a search of my vehicle. Am I free to go?” If you take that approach, you give yourself the protection of the Fourth Amendment, and your criminal lawyer can Then use the exclusionary rule to potentially get your criminal case dismissed in court. Now listen, I’m Jeff Hampton with Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys. If you or a loved one have been arrested and charged with a crime in the North Texas area, I want to offer you a free case analysis and a free consultation. You see the number that’s above you on the screen. But listen, by all means, no matter what happens in the future, don’t consent. Always refuse consent to a search. Stand on your rights. Your rights are only useful if you use them. Thanks again, we’ll see you soon.