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When a LEO Wants to Search Your Vehicle

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I am searching for the right words to use, when a LEO wants to do a fishing expedition in my vehicle.

Example:  I'm on my way back from the range, and I get pulled over for some reason.
The LEO asks to snoop through my vehicle.

I do not want him on a fishing expedition in my truck.
Q:  what are the right words to use?

"Certainly, if you have a warrant" seems to be confrontational.
I have no desire to be a problem nor confrontational.
I also have no desire for a LEO showing me how big his dick is.

If necessary, I do have all day to wait for him to get a warrant, etc.
If he wants to go fishing, I want due process and for him to do it the proper way.

What is the proper way to respond?
 

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“Officer, please contact your supervisor and request that he observe your search.  When your supervisor arrives here, I will give my permission to search my vehicle.”

 

 

Maybe.  Never tried it myself, never had reason to.  I’m interested in what the LEOs will say.

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In my 20s, beard, long hair, crappy car with rust streaks running down the what used to be silver paint. Engine barely running, just trying to get a couple more weeks out of it before a driveline swap...

 

9PM, dark, some damn tailgater with high beams gets behind me. I wave him around, I can't get any more speed out of this vehicle without it stalling.

 

The blues light up about 10 seconds later.

 

Cutting to the chase, he said I was driving erratically ("Officer, I am having engine problems").

 

"Can I search your vehicle?"

 

"No."

 

"Why not?"

 

"I don't have to let you."

 

"I can get a warrant."

 

"If you can get a warrant, then you must have some probable cause. Can you tell me what that is?"

 

After some further discussion, I did allow him to look in the interior through the windows with a flashlight. That is all in public view anyway. And he did not need my permission to do so.

 

I spent about an hour at the side of the road, backup arrived, got put through a full intoxication evaluation short of breathalyzer (walk the line, touch nose, etc.).

 

And then I could go on my merry way.

 

My advice? Stick to your rights, display respect for the officers, recognize they might stretch to the limits of their authority, and know refusing to allow a search is not probable cause or suspicious a reasonable articulate-able suspicion.

 

It also doesn't hurt if you don't look like a dirtbag driving a POS vehicle that can't get out of its own way.

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No sir. No more, no less.

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And what probable cause did they have to do a field sobriety test on you?

 

Can I search your vehicle?  "No Thank You...

 

 

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No sir, I do not give consent to search my vehicle.

 

Or, No sir, you are dismissed.

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If they ask you more than who you are, just plead the fifth. 'I will answer questions when my lawyer gets here.'

 

They don't need to advise you of your rights, but if your stupid enough to incriminate yourself that's too bad for you.

They know what and why they are doing it, so as long as your polite there should be no ramifications. If there are, you have a law suit.

And they know it.

Edited by Blast Masterson

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12 minutes ago, Blast Masterson said:

And what probable cause did they have to do a field sobriety test on you?

 

Can I search your vehicle?  "No Thank You...

 

 

He started with "driving erratically."

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21 minutes ago, J-BAR #18287 said:

“Officer, please contact your supervisor and request that he observe your search.  When your supervisor arrives here, I will give my permission to search my vehicle.”

 

 

Maybe.  Never tried it myself, never had reason to.  I’m interested in what the LEOs will say.

 

No way.  You just gave permission to search, and the OP wants to find a polite way to decline -- you accomplished the opposite of what the OP wanted.  Asking permission to search is an officer's job; there is absolutely nothing intimidating about asking for his/her supervisor to be there.  

 

There are several levels of intrusion the police can make into someone's private lives.  Each level of intrusion requires a different level of proof.  The lowest level is called "consent" and carries NO BURDEN OF PROOF WHATSOEVER.  It means the person being addressed is free to leave at any time and is present of their own volition.  The same holds true for a consensual search -- the person is free to leave and does not have to allow the search to take place; they are doing it of their own volition.  

 

The second level of intrusion is "investigatory detention," and the corresponding burden of proof is "reasonable articulable suspicion."  At this point, a suspect is NOT under arrest, but there is enough proof that they are NOT free to leave, either.   There are thousands of court rulings on the exact definitions.

 

The third level is arrest, and the corresponding burden of proof is "probable cause."  A search of a home requires this level of proof, and almost always (very few exceptions) requires a warrant signed by a judge.  However, many searches of a vehicle can be conducted without a warrant, but require this level of proof as well.  If this level has been reached, you cannot deny the officer the search -- he/she is going to search whether you like it or not, and interfering with them will land you in jail.  I have had more than one driver (or even passenger) loudly scream about how they did not consent to me searching their vehicle, to which my response was, "I've noted your objection.  Now please get out of the way before I arrest you."  

 

The fourth level is conviction, and the corresponding burden of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt."  

 

But this question really rooted in the first level of intrusion -- consent.  In these cases, the driver DOES NOT have to allow the search.  The Supreme Court has multiple rulings on this one.  For example, the driver MUST BE FREE TO LEAVE before the officer asks for consent.  In other words, if the officer is holding the driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance, they are not free to leave.  If they are detained in the back of a patrol cruiser, they are not free to leave.  You get the point.

 

The average reader is asking why on earth someone carrying an illegal item would give consent, and I'm here to tell you, they absolutely do.  I don't know why, but I know they do.  And I followed ALL the rules -- driver free to leave, use the word "search" instead of a euphemism like "look around," etc.  I got more dope off consent searches than I can even recall.  

 

So back to the original question:  How to decline.  I'd advise you just to do it politely, such as, "Officer, I'd rather you didn't."  He/she may ask a few follow up questions -- let's face it, any good cop is suspicious and may assume you are hiding something by declining, but we all know that isn't true.  Some people just don't want another person nosing around in their stuff, whether they have something to hide or not.  The rookies may even ask, "Are you hiding something?"  I would simply respond, "No, I just don't want to take the time out of my day to have another person snooping around in my stuff."

 

If the officer demands the search, or informs you they are searching your vehicle with or without your consent, one of two things is happening:  1) They have a legal reason to, which you can fight about in court later.  As I said before, engaging with them on this is a good way to get arrested.  Voice your objection but do not interfere, and then file a complaint with Internal Affairs and / or consult an attorney about suing them.  2) The cop is a dumba$$ and doesn't know how to play the gam,e correctly.  Unfortunately, I worked with several of these guys; they do exist.  So in the case of either #1 or #2,  my advice from #1 applies.

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16 minutes ago, Blast Masterson said:

And what probable cause did they have to do a field sobriety test on you?

 

Barracks lawyer question.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is why you do not trust someone's legal advice who has no training.

 

A cop does NOT need probable cause to conduct a field sobriety test.  That's what they need to arrest the driver AFTER doing the sobriety tests.  A cop needs "reasonable articulable suspicion" to do those tests.  

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5 minutes ago, Cyrus Cassidy #45437 said:

But this question really rooted in the first level of intrusion -- consent.  In these cases, the driver DOES NOT have to allow the search.  The Supreme Court has multiple rulings on this one.  For example, the driver MUST BE FREE TO LEAVE before the officer asks for consent.  In other words, if the officer is holding the driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance, they are not free to leave...

The officer still held all my papers when he asked for consent. I was therefore not free to leave.

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Just now, John Kloehr said:

The officer still held all my papers when he asked for consent. I was therefore not free to leave.

 

This is perhaps the biggest error police make in consent searches across the country.  The Supreme Court has ruled (and I agree with them) that any time a police officer stops a citizen, there is an inherent coercion taking place -- the public knows the cop has a gun and the authority to use it.  The badge, uniform, etc. are symbols of legal authority.  But consent must be given freely, WITHOUT coercion.  So the officer is required to return the documents and explain the person is free to leave.  

 

Regardless of how many times cops lose evidence gained from consent searches, they keep doing this one.  I've seen it in my own former department hundreds of times.  And unfortunately, "that's the way we've always done it" rules the roost in law enforcement.  So they keep doing it, and they keep getting evidence thrown out.

 

But the real question is, why are you arguing with me over it?  I wasn't there.  

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I remember all the drug interdiction training we got back in the 1990's.  "How do you feel about the war on drugs?"  We had about 26 miles of I-85 in our county and it's a major drug corridor to the N.E.   Some of those drug interdiction officers were real smooth.  They would even get the driver to sign a consent search waver.   

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“My lawyer has advised me to never consent to such a search.”

 

Seamus

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Well as somebody who went through a shake down by the Tennessee Highway Patrol on the way to Comin' at Cha back in 2011, in no way ever, EVER consent to a search.  They will try and use scare tactics to make you fold like cheap lawn furniture....'well ya know, if you don't consent, then we'll have to bring the dog out, and if the dog signals something, that will give us probable cause'........you just simply reply all nice and calm like with 'gee officer, I don't know, I think I'll need to see a warrant'.  And leave it at that.

 

And always ALWAYS ask what they're looking for.  My case they told me narcotics and large amounts of cash.

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1 hour ago, Cyrus Cassidy #45437 said:


No way.  You just gave permission to search, and the OP wants to find a polite way to decline -- you accomplished the opposite of what the OP wanted.


 

Thanks for the explanation, makes sense.

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Cyrus, many thanks for the detailed explanation.

Here in the PRK, I have no doubt an enterprising LEO could find SOME violation transporting my guns and ammo to the range.
The shackle on the lock is too small, it doesn't have Newsom's autograph on the lock body... etc.

Justice costs money.  Lots and lots of money.  Been there, done that (plaintiff).
I don't want to be writing big retainer checks to some lawyer to prove my innocence in court.
The way to win that game... do not play.

I fully understand the cop is skilled in using his badge, gun and uniform to bully his way into my consent.
I fully support the LEOs... 99% of the time... But, I have experienced three complete prick cops in my 70 years... don't want a repeat of that.

My whole question is "how to decline in a polite and respectful manner."
If I can do this without starting a pissing contest, I can drive away without becoming a problem to them.
 

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1 hour ago, Cyrus Cassidy #45437 said:

 

This is perhaps the biggest error police make in consent searches across the country.  The Supreme Court has ruled (and I agree with them) that any time a police officer stops a citizen, there is an inherent coercion taking place -- the public knows the cop has a gun and the authority to use it.  The badge, uniform, etc. are symbols of legal authority.  But consent must be given freely, WITHOUT coercion.  So the officer is required to return the documents and explain the person is free to leave.  

 

Regardless of how many times cops lose evidence gained from consent searches, they keep doing this one.  I've seen it in my own former department hundreds of times.  And unfortunately, "that's the way we've always done it" rules the roost in law enforcement.  So they keep doing it, and they keep getting evidence thrown out.

 

But the real question is, why are you arguing with me over it?  I wasn't there.  

No argument, sorry if my post came cross as arguing.

 

Just relaying what happened to me. And for what it is worth, this was in California in the early to mid 80s. I think I was profiled. Whatever, the car looked like hell and I looked scruffy too.

 

I spent an hour at the side of the road; it was brought about by not consenting to a search. But I might have spent the same amount of time had I consented to a fruitless search.

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"Officer I am invoking the 4th amendment and do not consent to any searches or seizures of my property. I am also invoking my 5th amendment rights and do not wish to answer any questions."

 

The whole dog thing is a big scam. They walk a dog around your vehicle, dog scratches the paint in performing its search. Cop comes back, 'the dog alerted on your vehicle. We're now going to search it for drugs'. What did the dog do to signal alert officer? Oh' we know! Biggest BS excuse to get in your vehicle going.

 

The other infringement on our rights is the, 'give me your ID'.  If you're in a vehicle you can't say no. But many States are not stop and ID or ID doesn't have to be given until you've been arrested. Cops threaten arrest for failure to ID and most people cave.

Edited by irish ike, SASS #43615
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Very simply state "no sir,  I do not give you permission to search.  Am I free to go?"

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If the officer decides he wants to search my vehicle, does he have the right to drag me and vehicle down to his station?
Or, does he have to bring his watch commander or ?? out to where I was pulled over?

This situation happened to me out on HW95 in the middle of NV... station was a long way from there.
He gave me the choice of letting the dog go through the truck on the road side, or at the station.
His probable cause:  I was over the (unlimited) speed in NV, and he thought my Dodge PU was a drug runner.

I gave the dog permission (I carry a security clearance) and the vehicle was clean.
He showed me the size of his penis for about 45 minutes and was disappointed the dog found nothing.

Edited by bgavin
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6 minutes ago, bgavin said:

If the officer decides he wants to search my vehicle, does he have the right to drag me and vehicle down to his station?
Or, does he have to bring his watch commander or ?? out to where I was pulled over?

This situation happened to me out on HW95 in the middle of NV... station was a long way from there.
He gave me the choice of letting the dog go through the truck on the road side, or at the station.
His probable cause:  I was over the (unlimited) speed in NV, and he thought my Dodge PU was a drug runner.

I gave the dog permission (I carry a security clearance) and the vehicle was clean.
He showed the size of his penis for about 45 minutes and was disappointed the dog found nothing.

 

He THOUGHT your vehicle was a drug runner? :blink:

 

On what random, subjective, biased, and probably totally non factual idea did he base his probable cause? :angry:

Edited by Dantankerous

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He has the badge and the gun.

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3 minutes ago, bgavin said:

He has the badge and the gun.

 

I asked for the cop's probable cause, not his ego.

 

;)

Edited by Dantankerous
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2 hours ago, irish ike, SASS #43615 said:

"Officer I am invoking the 4th amendment and do not consent to any searches or seizures of my property. I am also invoking my 5th amendment rights and do not wish to answer any questions."

 

The whole dog thing is a big scam. They walk a dog around your vehicle, dog scratches the paint in performing its search. Cop comes back, 'the dog alerted on your vehicle. We're now going to search it for drugs'. What did the dog do to signal alert officer? Oh' we know! Biggest BS excuse to get in your vehicle going.

 

The other infringement on our rights is the, 'give me your ID'.  If you're in a vehicle you can't say no. But many States are not stop and ID or ID doesn't have to be given until you've been arrested. Cops threaten arrest for failure to ID and most people cave.


There is a lot if BS legal advice in here.  I’m not even going to bother.

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5 hours ago, Dantankerous said:

No sir, I do not give consent to search my vehicle.

 

Or, No sir, you are dismissed.

Yeah. That’ll work. :lol::lol::huh::lol:

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In the case of one particular local officer, I would want an independent witness to accompany him if he was doing a search.

This from personal experience with the officer and how "Creative" he is in his notes.

He's still on the force but I bet he looks closely to see if there is a video camera running in the area. 

You should have seen the look on his face when the Inspector i/c of the Traffic Div. greeted me like the old friend he is.

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“No”

”I can get a warrant.”

”Go ahead and get a warrant. There will be no search without one.”

One hour later he let me go. 
 

Funny thing is. Had he been nice I would have said “Sure, go ahead.”

He didn’t like the stickers on my cross bed tool box, I am pretty sure, because he commented on them and couple of times.  
1. Impeach Clinton

2. I love animals, they’re delicious

3. Gun Control Works, just ask the people in these countries ( there was a swastika and a sickle and hammer on the decal)
4. NRA Life

5. CRPA (California Rifle and Pistol Assoc.)

 

He probably thought I was a crazy gun toting conservative hell bent on freedom or something. ;)
 

Cost me an hour but...

 

Then there was the time in ‘86 the El Segundo CA cops wanted to disassemble my Harley to look for drugs. That is a long story. They didn’t get the warrant. I rode away an hour older with a new found disdain for the El Segundo PD. 

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Cyruss Cassidy and Lawman Mark both nailed it.  'Nuff said.

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The only answer I have is to answer politely, but firmly, "No Sir, I do not." People generally want to be helpful, whether in their actions or their comments. The best thing to do is politely limit your answers  to the extent possible. In this day and age, even I would likely turn the video on on my phone and set it down to play.

 

Having said that, understand that if the officer wants to search your vehicle, the officer will find a way to do so, especially if there is malice involved. From "I thought I smelled marijuana" to "eyes are bloodshot / glassy and you appear unusually jumpy and nervous." Heck, even politely invoking your rights ("I don't believe I need to inform you where I am traveling from / to") has created problems for drivers.

 

If a drug dog is brought to the scene, it is not unreasonable to expect that some damage will be done to the vehicle, and there can be headaches with filing claims, etc... On the subject of the dog hitting, U.S. courts, up to and including the Supreme Court, have, in my opinion, given not so tacit consent to this particular Fourth Amendment violation. In Florida v. Harris, SCOTUS pretty much created a standard that, if a dog is "certified," nothing else matters, despite significant literature showing that dogs and handlers alike are prone to error. Error rates among dogs have been all over the map, and can be so high you're better off with a coin toss for probable cause, but that is the way it is, and is likely to stay.

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10 hours ago, The Original Lumpy Gritz said:

As a former LEO, the word you are looking for is-NO.

OLG 

I was hopeful you would chime in.

I fully get "No", but I don't want to sound rude or confrontational.
The best way to win this game, is to not play.

So far, the one that plays best in my head:
"Very simply state "no sir,  I do not give you permission to search.  Am I free to go?"

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A lawyer said “I do not consent to searches without a warrant.” 

 

Another one: “Officer, am I being detained?”

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So Cyrus, what part of me OP is legal BS. You have the right to invoke the 5th at any time. A lot of cops think it doesn't apply until after someone is arrested and they have been Mirandized. The Supreme Court has even advised, 'do not talk to cops without an attorney, ever'!

 

It's also advisable to video any encounter with a cop. Their reports sometimes will win awards for creative writing. And they can pull the, 'my body cam was off for some reason', if they even have one!

 

The 4th amendment applies to illegal searches and seizures. While the cops may ignore your rights and have no PC they will search anyway. The statement is an additional layer of protection for the future lawsuit.

 

As to the sniffing dogs, another OP says it better than me. They are a means to search and can be used to get what the cops want.

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This is about the third time this subject has come up. Seems like some people always get their panties in a bunch and want to be confrontational. No need to do that. The correct answer is, and always has been a simple, "No, sir."

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