If I Am Pulled Over, Can Police Search My Car In New Jersey?

  • Criminal Defense

Did you know that the law protects you from “unreasonable search and seizure’? Whether you are a citizen or a non-citizen, a vagrant or a visitor, a child or a senior citizen, you are covered in the Fourth Amendment.

A seizure should be on a reasonable basis and not just a “feeling” or a “hunch.” And if officers have justifiable grounds to stop you, they are not allowed to search your car or personal belongings without sufficient reasons. But if you feel like your rights were violated, a New Jersey criminal defense attorney can review the facts and help.

You don’t have to consent to a request from officers to search your car when they’ve stopped you for a traffic offense or other permissible reasons. Law enforcers can only look into your vehicle when there is a probable cause or if they have a warrant.

What Are My Rights and Responsibilities When the Police Stop Me?

When the police stop you, you have the following rights and responsibilities;

The Roadblock Must Meet Specific Criteria

A roadblock must meet some specific criteria like when and where it is set up. But if you felt otherwise regarding the roadblock, an attorney can clarify and help you challenge it.

You Can Refuse a Search

You have a right to say no when the police ask if they can search your car. If they don’t have legal grounds to do so, they shouldn’t do it.

You Shouldn’t Be Detained Unnecessarily

Police should not hold you longer than is necessary. While there is no fixed time of how long law enforcers should take when they stop you, interview you, or probably search the car – they should use reasonable diligence.

Cooperate and Exercise Your Rights

If the police stop you for a traffic offense, you must provide the documents they request, like the driver’s license and insurance information. If you have to speak, do so respectfully. But remember that you don’t have to say anything because you have a right to remain silent.

Having a driver’s license in New Jersey also means that you consent to take a breathalyzer test when officers suspect you of DUI because there are consequences for refusing the breathalyzer test in New Jersey. However, DUI charges can be defended in court by an experienced DWI lawyer in New Jersey.

Legal Representation

A legal representative can protect and defend your rights, and you can ask the officers to let you call or request your lawyer.  

Should I Give or Deny the Consent for a Warrantless Car Search?

Every motorist in New Jersey needs to know that they have a right to say “no” when the police seek their consent to search their car. It is wrong for an officer to frame the question inappropriately and make you feel like your only choice is to agree to the search.

What Is Considered ‘Probable Cause’ for a Car Search in NJ?

If the officers reasonably suspect that your car is hiding something illegal or dangerous, a probable cause may exist. New Jersey is very keen on this violation, and there must be proof that the suspicion was articulable, specific, and reasonable.

An experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney can challenge an officer’s grounds of suspicion in court and save you hefty fines and imprisonment. It doesn’t matter if you consent to the search – if the suspicion wasn’t reasonable, the evidence recovered may not be admissible in court.

What Does the NJ Law Say About Exigent Circumstances and Warrantless Searches?

Warrantless searches may be permitted in emergencies. However, an officer must prove that the evidence wouldn’t have been preserved if they waited for a search warrant.

If officers feel like their safety or other people are at risk, they may search your vehicle to check for hidden weapons. Another situation is if they believe that a kidnapping victim is in your trunk, they can’t possibly wait.

The law enforcers ought to foresee unpredictable, rapidly unfolding events that can lead to the destruction or loss of evidence. A 

New Jersey attorney can still challenge such defense and set his or her client free.

Can Officers Search My Car if I’m Arrested?

If the police smell marijuana in your car during a traffic stop, they can arrest you and search your car. While medical marijuana is legal in New Jersey, it is not acceptable to drive under its influence, and you may need a New Jersey DWI attorney to defend your DWI charge.

It doesn’t matter what you have been charged with; an experienced lawyer can give your case better outcomes. Losing your driving rights and freedom is not ideal, while you can turn it around with the right legal help.

What if My Car Is Impounded?

Your car can be impounded for suspected car theft or parking violation and can be towed. In such cases, the police have the authority to search through various places, including the locked compartments comprehensively.

Note that it is illegal for officers to impound and tow a car for the sole purpose of a search. If you feel like something wasn’t done right, consult with your attorney. Most lawyers in New Jersey offer the first consultation for free.

Should I Answer Questions Asked?

Officers may ask you questions like, “Do you have anything illegal in the car?” or, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Remember that you can refuse to answer any of these questions, of course, without necessarily appearing arrogant or rude. However, it is mandatory to provide proof of insurance, car registration, and driver’s license if requested.

Legal Aid to Defend Your Rights in New Jersey

While the U.S. Constitution protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures, it is often violated. New Jersey lawyers are always ready to defend clients whose rights have been abused and save them from wrongful imprisonment.

Next time the police pull you over, remain calm and remember your rights. If you feel your car was unlawfully searched, your concerns are valid. Consulting with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help you determine the search’s legality and your case’s possibilities.

Are you concerned about a legal encounter in New Jersey? Talk to the attorneys at The Hernandez Law Firm on (732) 286-2700 to receive personal attention on your case today.

Related Blog Posts

The Ins and Outs of Expungement Laws in New Jersey: How to Clear Your Criminal Record

What You Need to Know About New Jersey Criminal Defense Laws: Tips from Top Lawyers

The Hidden Costs of a Criminal Conviction in New Jersey: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Can You Seal Your Juvenile Record in New Jersey? Exploring the State’s Laws and Options