Know what to say when the police ask for consent to search your car

Find out how to say no - get our Free document holder

At least once each week someone comes in after they have been arrested during a traffic stop. Many times it's because an officer asked for permission to search their car and they agreed; something was found (like marijuana), and instead of getting a ticket they are arrested and taken to jail. When we look at the case, we find that many times they could have left with a ticket if they just knew to say no, and knew how to say it.

Don't get me wrong; There are situations where the police can search your car even if you refuse consent. However, just because they ask doesn't mean they have a reason to.  There are many times when an officer pulls somebody over and asks for consent to search even if they don't have a reason to believe you've committed some type of offense. I've even had officers admit that they request consent every time they stop someone.  It's usually very friendly and innocuous. The encounter usually goes something like this:

  • Do you have anything illegal, or any weapons that I need to be worried about?
  • That’s followed up with “you don't mind if I look in your car do you”, or maybe “do you mind if I look in your car?”

That request takes most people by surprise. The large majority of people will say yes. After all, we're all taught to respect authority, and that the police are there to protect us. Those are not bad things, but that doesn't mean you should give up your rights and let them rummage through your car. If for no other reason, do you really want to hang around for five or ten minutes (or more) while they look around? I don't know about you, but I'm generally always in a hurry to get somewhere. The last thing I want to do is hang around on the side of the road watching the police rummage through my car.

You have the right to say no and refuse consent for a search

The hard part is saying no; most people feel pressure to say yes. That's why I decided to create something that will help you, and tell you what to say.

I created a document holder, so it will serve more than one purpose and will always be in your car. The holder keeps your insurance information and registration organized so you have it available when you need it. The first question in any traffic stop is "do you have your license, registration, and insurance?" When you pull out your document holder with the requested documents inside, you will have helpful information right in front of you.

All you need to do to get your copy is fill out the contact form on this page, and we will send it to you. If you prefer, you can call 254-296-0020, and give your information that way. We will promptly get that to you - no strings attached.

Why am I doing this?

You might wonder why a lawyer would do this. After all, if people follow this advice and don't get arrested, I won't have anything to do. That's fine with me; I would rather see you avoid an arrest, and not have to go in and fix a problem that could have been avoided. And the truth is, people are still going to get arrested. You may even get arrested after you refuse consent; if that happens you've protected your rights, and a judge can decide whether you should have been searched. 

If you want more information on your rights during a traffic stop, and why you should refuse consent, check out this article, which covers the issue in more detail.

If you want more information on the criminal justice system, get a FREE copy of our Layman's Guide to the Criminal Justice System.

And if you've read this too late, and have already been arrested or charged with an offense in Waco, McLennan County, Bell County, Falls County, Hill County or Bosque County,  give us a call at 254-296-0020.

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Walter Reaves
Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.