During an Arizona traffic stop, the law enforcement official who stops over may ask if he or she may look around your car. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident, you may have the right to refuse the officer’s request. Knowing when you do and do not maintain the right to refuse a law enforcement official’s search request may go a long way as far as helping you stay out of trouble.
According to FlexYourRights.org, authorities generally need to have your permission or a warrant if they want to search your person. Yet, if they want to search your car, rather than you, the bar is a bit lower. In this scenario, all the law enforcement official who stops you needs to conduct the search is something that counts as “probable cause.”
Examples of probable cause
For an officer to have probable cause to look through your car, he or she needs to have some sort of evidence or proof that something unlawful is going on. This means the officer needs to have more than just a hunch or suspicion. If he or she spots drug paraphernalia or stolen property in the car, this may count as probable cause. Smelling an illegal substance may also give the officer grounds to move ahead with the search.
An absence of probable cause
Without probable cause, a warrant or your permission, you do not have to allow the search to take place. Tell the officer you do not consent to have your car searched and then question him or her about whether you may leave.
Make sure that, if you do refuse a request to look around your car, you are polite and courteous when doing so.