CITIZENS ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PROVIDE CONSENT TO SEARCH A CAR EVEN IF THE POLICE REQUEST CONSENT.
Do you have to provide consent to the police if they ask to search your car? The answer is no, you do not have to provide consent. You have a constitutional right to reject a request for consent to search.
The police generally need to obtain a search warrant to search anything. This includes a car. There are some exceptions to this general rule. If you provide consent to the police, they will be able to search your car lawfully. However, you are not required to provide this consent. You have the right to say “no.” You should then request to speak to an attorney.
You should also know that police cannot even ask for your consent to search your car unless they possess Reasonable Articulable Suspicion that your car may contain contraband such as a gun, or illegal drugs. If the police cannot later demonstrate to the court that they had Reasonable Articulable Suspicion that contraband would be found, prior to asking for consent, then any search conducted pursuant to that consent could be declared an illegal search. If the Court makes such a finding, any evidence seized could be suppressed. This means that the police will not be able to use that evidence against you.
The New Jersey Supreme Court recently dealt with the issue of “consent” searches again in 2013. In State v. Basko, the Court ruled that the consent that had been given was not valid consent. This was because the consent was tainted by a police officer’s threat to use a narcotics dog if the defendant withheld consent. Simply, the police cannot coerce you into providing consent. Any consent the police obtain as a result of threats may very well be thrown out, as in the Basko case. State v. Basko, 2013 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 601 (App. Div. March 15, 2013).
If you are facing criminal charges for possession of a controlled dangerous substance, possession of a firearm, or possession of any other evidence that law enforcement intends to use to prosecute you, you should contact me immediately. I have taught the subject of search and seizure law to law enforcement for nearly a decade. I understand your rights and can guide you through your legal entanglements.
If you need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact attorney Michael Mormando, Esquire, at the law firm of Attorneys Hartman, Chartered, at 856-393-6073.