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Just Say No: Tips for Preventing Police from Searching Your Car During a Traffic Stop

Just Say No: Tips for Preventing Police from Searching Your Car During a Traffic Stop

Just Say No: Tips for Preventing Police from Searching Your Car During a Traffic Stop

With legal cannabis on the rise, it’s no surprise that more people than ever are driving with cannabis in their cars. Here in California, the odor of cannabis is not enough to give the police just cause to legally search your vehicle, but the same isn’t true in every state, legalized cannabis or not. The best thing you can do is avoid getting pulled over to begin with but if you do fall victim to a traffic stop, it’s important to know you have the right to say no to a search unless the officer has probable cause or a signed warrant.

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Preparing in Advance

If you’re going to be traveling by car with cannabis, it’s recommended to store it in a sealed container in the trunk. Don’t smoke inside the car and don’t leave “drug paraphernalia” in plain view, such as a pipe or bong. It’s also a good idea to empty any ashtrays of roaches.

Avoiding a Traffic Stop

Clearly, avoiding getting pulled over by law enforcement is the ideal outcome. If you’re going to be traveling with cannabis in the car, give your car a once-over safety check. Make sure all your appropriate lights and turn signals are functioning properly and there’s no small reason a cop can find to pull you over. Obey all traffic laws when you drive.

Comply, Be Polite and Be Quiet

If you do get pulled over, comply with the officer’s directions and remain calm and polite. Say as little as possible! You are not obligated to answer any questions about where you’re coming from or going to, or if you know why they pulled you over. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court, even something said innocently. You can simply reply with, “I’m sorry, I’ve been instructed not to answer questions during a traffic stop.”

If they ask to look in your trunk or inside your vehicle, state “I do not consent to any search.” Unless the officer has a signed warrant or there are additional circumstances, they cannot legally enter any part of your vehicle. If you decline the search and the officer searches anyway, it could lead to dismissal of charges or other problems for their legal case, but only if you don’t resist!

Some law enforcement may pressure you or attempt to intimidate you into giving consent and your first instinct may be to defend yourself or simply cave to the pressure. Don’t. You are protected by your 4th amendment rights which prevents illegal search and seizure. If they continue with attempting to provoke you or engage you with questions, state “I exercise my right to remain silent.”

Always Ask

At any point during a traffic stop, you can ask if you’re free to go. Police cannot detain you without reason, a reason they’ll need to prove in court should anything progress. If they have no legal reason to keep you, you can simply wait for the officer to complete his task and then leave. If they choose to detain you, immediately ask for a lawyer and then say nothing more!

Want to read more about traffic stops with cannabis in California? Check out these resources: