“You don’t mind if I take a look inside, do you?” can be a worrying thing to hear from a police officer during what you hoped was a routine traffic stop.

The Fourth Amendment gives you protection to go about your everyday life without being stopped by the police for no reason. However, there are still many situations in which the police can legitimately search your car if they stop you when driving:

  • A search warrant: If the police have a search warrant, they have the right to search your car.
  • Plain view: If you have something in your car in “plain view” that is evidence of a potential crime, the police officer can search your vehicle.
  • Probable cause: The police need to have probable cause to suspect you have committed a crime. If your car smells of marijuana, this could be a reason, as could hearing a muffled voice shouting from the trunk. If your face is freshly scratched and your shirt covered in blood, it may also count.
  • Search incident to arrest: If the police have arrested you, they have the right to search the car for evidence of what they arrested you for, or to make sure you do not have any weapons which you could use against them.
  • You give them permission: Remember, “You don’t mind if I take a look inside, do you?” is a question. Saying that you don’t mind is giving permission. If you don’t want a police officer to search your car, tell them that you do not consent. Be careful how you do it, though; you do not wish to escalate a situation.

If the Texas police have stopped you and they searched your car without a valid reason, you may be able to use this to rule out the use of evidence they encountered.