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Attorney at Law

Phone: (765) 423-2557

Fax: (765) 423-4544

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Lafayette, IN 47901

How to prevent the police from searching my car!

Understanding your rights will help prepare you to handle the pressure and confusion of a traffic stop. Police officers frequently try to exploit a major loophole in the search warrant requirement by obtaining your consent to a vehicle search. Following the rules below will you help you from being tricked into giving up your constitutional rights. You will also improve your chances of driving away safely.


If you are stopped, pull over immediately, turn off your car, and place your hands on the steering wheel. Police like to see your hands for their own safety. At night, turn on the dome light so the officer can see your hands. Do not reach for your paperwork until requested to do so. If a police officer sees movement, he will believe that you are trying to hide something illegal or reaching for a weapon. Such furtive gestures can create reasonable suspicion by the officer to justify a search of the car.

Indiana law provides that in order for a police officer to make an arrest or issue a traffic ticket for a violation of a law regulating the operation of a motor vehicle, the officer must be either wearing a uniform and badge, or driving a clearly marked police vehicle. The purpose of this law is to protect drivers from police impersonators and to protect police officers from resistance should they not be recognized as officers.

Evidence obtained in an unlawful arrest or stop may be excluded (thrown out) upon a proper motion to suppress of a defendant. Should you be stopped for operating while intoxicated or any other traffic offense, you should carefully observe what the police officer is wearing and what the officer is driving and provide this information to your attorney.

Greet the officer as “Officer”. Never talk back, raise your voice or argue with a police officer. Never tell a police officer that you know your rights. They will take that as a challenge and a lack of cooperation on your part. If the officer writes you a ticket, accept it quietly and never complain. Take the ticket and drive away slowly.


Police will try to get you to admit to having broken the law. An example is “Do you know how fast you were going?” In a high school, I was a passenger in a car pulled over by a state trooper whose first question to us was “Which one of you boys through that beer bottle out of the car? No bottles were thrown out because I knew there was no beer in the car.

You should asset your right against self-incrimination by refusing to admit that you might have broken the law. The best answer to these questions is “No. Officer.” Because anything you say can and will be used in court against you, the less you say the better.


The United States Supreme Court has determined that police are permitted to order the driver and passengers out of a vehicle during a traffic stop. If this happens, step out of the car immediately.

If they have a reasonable basis for suspecting you are armed, police are entitled to frisk the outside of your clothing for a weapons search. Never physically resist. Touching an officer could get you tasered or worse. You could also get a felony charge for battery of a law enforcement officer.

The police may ask you a series of questions which will likely include “You don’t mind if I have a look in your car?” This question is a trick to obtain your consent to search your car without a warrant. The question may sound like an order, but the judge will consider it a request. If you consent to the search, the search will be considered legal.

You always have the right to refuse a search of your car. You should politely decline such requests by saying “Officer, I know you’re doing your job, but I don’t consent to searches.”

Refusing a search is not an admission of guilt and does not give the officer the right to search or detain you. Most police searches occur because people get tricked or intimidated into consenting to search requests. If police search your car and find drugs or other illegal items despite your refusal, your lawyer can file a motion to suppress (throw out) the evidence in court. If the judge agrees that the search violated your rights, the evidence will be tossed out of court. Unless the prosecution has additional evidence, your charges would be dismissed.


Unless you are detained or arrested, you may end the encounter at any time. Do not wait for the officer to say you can leave. Ask if you are free to go.

For example, if an officer threatens to call in a drug dog if you refuse a search, you should respond “Officer, I don’t consent to any searches. Am I free to go?” This response can help end the encounter and deflect any further questioning by the officer. If the officer follows up with “If you cooperate with me, it will go easier for you.”, this statement is not true. You should respond by repeating “Officer, I don’t consent to any searches. Am I free to go?” If the officer keeps asking questions or the answer is unclear, persist in repeating “Officer, I don’t consent to any searches. Am I free to go?” until the officer lets you leave. Leave immediately when you get permission to do so.


If you are not free to leave, you are being detained and possibly arrested. In such a situation, you magic words are “I’m remaining silent. I want a lawyer.” These words are your only protection if you are in custody. Do not rely on the police to remind you of your right to remain silent and to a lawyer. Repeat “I’m remaining silent. I want a lawyer.” as often as necessary but never say anything more than that. Remember that anything you say can and will be used against you in court. Most criminal cases are lost because the defendants did not use their rights to remain silent and the help of a lawyer.

If you find yourself having been arrested, you should immediately hire experienced criminal defense lawyers such as Vonderheide & Knecht to help you fight the State.

Filed to Ask a Lawyer, Criminal Defense, Marijuana & Other Drugs

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