Home > Insights > Legal Tips > Pulled Over In NY? Know 7 Quick Tips About Police Searches

Pulled Over In NY? Know 7 Quick Tips About Police Searches

by | Oct 23, 2020

The United States Constitution’s Fourth Amendment guarantees security against unreasonable searches, seizures, and interceptions. In cases where the police have probable cause, they must “describe the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” 

This requirement acts to limit the scope of the search of the executing officers. It should limit them to looking in places where the described object could be expected to be found.

When discussing criminal defense in New York, that “place” can often be your car. The rules for searching a car are different than that of a residence. Beyond a traffic violation, police can pull you over if they reasonably believe that the occupants of a car, or the car itself, is involved in criminal activity. 

But you still have rights under the Fourth Amendment. You need to know how to act and – of equal importance – what the police are legally authorized to search. Below are some quick tips you should know if you are pulled over while driving in New York.  

Tip 1: Traffic violations are usually not probable cause. Just because the police car’s lights blare in your rearview mirror, does not mean your vehicle is subject to a search. Provide your license and registration when asked, but if you are pulled over for a routine traffic stop (like running a red light or speeding), then there should not be a reason for the officer to search the car. 

Tip 2: Know when drug dogs can sniff. Further to the point on Tip 1, the police must already have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to conduct what’s known as a “dog sniff.” The Fourth Amendment recognizes dog sniffs as searches, which means the officer must already have probable cause. But once the traffic ticket has been written and issued, you both should be able to move on and drug dogs should not be needed.  

Tip 3: You do not need to consent. In order to search the car, police need probable cause that you have committed some crime in addition to a traffic violation. Your consent to have the car searched is critical and you are not obligated to allow the police to search your car. If they search without your consent, any evidence uncovered may not be used against you later.  

Tip 4: Police do not need a warrant. Unlike when entering a residence, home or place of business, police do not need a warrant to search your vehicle. This is a critical “automobile exception” to the Fourth Amendment. 

Tip 5: Police can search a “grabbable area.” If there is no probable cause, but you are acting suspiciously, the officer can inspect any area of the car where an occupant (and not just the driver) is sitting. 

This limited search is admissible under state and federal law. It is allowed to protect the officer from physical harm and ensures that evidence is not destroyed. Being pulled over can be a nerve-wracking experience, but provide your license and registration when asked and try to remember those “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster signs. 

Tip 6: The trunk is usually beyond the “grabbable area.” Since the trunk is not within the “grabbable area” mentioned above, and is likely unrelated to any minor traffic offense, searches cannot lawfully be conducted there.  

Tip 7: Politeness matters. As previously discussed, it is always best to be polite when approached by police. Your conduct will make all the difference between a routine traffic stop, a small fine, and an arrest.

The laws governing probable cause and the Fourth Amendment can be complex and these tips are just a starting point. If you believe the police have unlawfully searched your car following a routine traffic stop, you should call a criminal defense attorney in NYC.

D’Emilia Law maintains that an arrest is not the end of your life. It is not the same as a conviction. A strong and strategic defense can uphold your innocence, keep you out of jail and reduce your charges and fines. 

If you or a loved one has been charged with any crime in New York, contact D’Emilia Law, criminal defense lawyers in NYC, for a consultation.

police search
DWI Arrest

Common Mistakes to Avoid During a DWI Arrest

Being pulled over for drinking and driving can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. A DWI can not only result in monetary fines and jail time, but it can also lead to personal, professional, and financial ramifications. Critically, any mistakes you make during...
Dispensary license violation attorney

Four Important Things to Know About New York’s Marijuana Laws

As the legal landscape regarding marijuana laws continues to shift, New York became the 16th state to legalize cannabis in 2021. However, there are still certain restrictions in place and it’s important to understand these laws to avoid incurring criminal penalties....
Pre-Trial Motion

What is a Pre-Trial Motion?

If you’ve been charged with a crime, you need a solid defense. One of the tools your criminal defense attorney will use as part of your defense strategy is the filing of pre-trial motions. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, a pre-trial motion can...
Zero Tolerance Law

What is New York’s Zero Tolerance Law?

Being charged with drunk driving at any age is a serious criminal offense that can result in steep consequences. However, New York State law provides distinct penalties for underage drivers who have been charged with DWIs. The Zero Tolerance Law specifies a lower...
Fifth Amendment

Understanding the Protections of the Fifth Amendment

Under the United States Constitution, an individual who has been accused of a crime is protected from self-incrimination. Commonly referred to as “the right to remain silent,” the Fifth Amendment guarantees that a person cannot be compelled by the government to...
Fourth Amendment

What is the Fourth Amendment Protection Against Unreasonable Search and Seizure?

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees protections to individuals from unlawful search and seizure by the government. However, it’s important to understand that this right doesn’t mean you can never be searched by the police. It only extends to...
Rights Crime

What are Your Rights if You’ve Been Charged with a Crime?

Regardless of the crime with which you’ve been charged, it’s essential to understand that you have certain rights under the U.S. Constitution and the New York State Constitution. These rights are meant to protect against arbitrary treatment by the government and...
DWI Attorney

Do You Need an Attorney for a DWI Charge?

If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence in New York, you may be wondering whether you should have the representation of an attorney. Critically, being charged with driving under the influence in New York can have a long-lasting impact on your life and...
DWI Felony

When is a DWI a Felony in New York?

A DWI can come with serious consequences, especially if you’re facing felony charges. While a first DWI is typically charged as a misdemeanor, there are certain situations in which an offense of driving under the influence can be a felony. For instance, if there are...
Drug Treatment Court

What is Drug Treatment Court — and is it an Option in My Case?

If you were arrested for a non-violent drug crime, you may be eligible for drug treatment court. This is a voluntary alternative to the regular court process that allows non-violent, drug-addicted offenders to enter into a treatment program, and potentially avoid...