The police want to search my car. Should I agree?

Guest post by Randy England

  Most police officers are reasonably hard-working. They have a job to do. Their job is to catch people who break the law. The ones that work the hardest do not sit around waiting to see if someone will commit a crime right in front of them. No, they go looking for lawbreakers to arrest.

If the police pull me over about a bad tail light, I am relieved to find that I am only getting a warning. But then the officer asks: “Say, before you go, would you mind if I search your car.”

This happens more often than you may imagine. He may want to search clothing too, or a purse. Depending on how things develop, he may even say: “How ’bout we go over and search your house?” What should I do?

I suppose if I’d lost something and wanted Officer Friendly to help me find it, I would be grateful for the help. Perhaps terrorists have taken over my back seat and this is my chance to escape.

Otherwise though, I’m having trouble thinking of reasons why I would agree to having a stranger nosing around in my stuff. No matter if I have anything to hide or not, it seems unlikely that having my car tossed is going to get me on my way any sooner. I’m not talking about being rude; not talking about physically resisting a search. I’m just talking about NOT AGREEING to a search. Do Not Give Consent.

It seems like a no-brainer when you put it that way, doesn’t it? Actually, people agree to those searches by the thousands. And criminal cases are filed all the time as a result of searches that the citizen simply agreed to.

Bottom line: I can always say no. No law requires me (or the average citizen) to agree to this invasion of my privacy. If the officer actually has legal grounds to search, he’s going to go ahead and search anyway, with or without my permission.