Most of us aren’t criminals, so we tend to trust law enforcement. Even when we feel suspicious about an officer’s intentions, we feel pressured to do as requested by the police. That’s often why people consent to police searches without warrants. While sometimes police overstep their boundaries and search a home or car without permission, more often then not a person has given the officer free rein to look, especially when we feel we haven’t done anything wrong.
It may be tempting to always do as asked by police, but when law enforcement asks for permission to search you, your home, or your car without a warrant, it is in your best interest to say no. There are many reasons for this, but the six most important reasons are listed below.
It is your Constitutional right.
Under the Fourth Amendment, we each are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. That means that if police don’t have a warrant and don’t see evidence of a crime in plain view that you have the right to refuse the search. Period. The Constitution alone should be enough reason for anyone to respect your choice.
Searches invade your privacy and can damage your property.
While you may feel that you have nothing to hide from the police, everyone has private items that they would rather not be handled by strangers and valuables that they do not want damaged. Once you have given permission for a search, police can go through anything in your home or car, and they do not have to put everything back where it came from. You would be surprised how fast a simple good faith permission for a search becomes a house in shambles. In order to avoid that damage, you can simply say no.
Submitting to a search wastes your time.
Once you have consented to a police search, you are in for the long haul. In other words, law enforcement can take their time looking through the area in question, while you are forced to wait. Police can usually spend at least 30 minutes on vehicle searches and much longer searching homes. No one has the free time to simply waste sitting around for the police to finish. Plus, if the police make you late for something important, you are unlikely to find a sympathetic response to the excuse “I was waiting for the police to finish searching my belongings.”
You never know what they might find.
Everyone has at least one stupid friend. You never know if a child or an acquaintance has brought something into your home or car that would appear suspicious. You could even innocently step on a joint and track it into the bottom of your car. You will be held responsible for whatever the police find. Don’t expect them to believe you when you say that you don’t know where the contraband came from. Police officers hear that from guilty people every day. It is better to simply decline the search than be surprised by something among your belongings.
Saying “no” up front protects you in court if an officer proceeds with a search in violation of your rights.
If you clearly state that you do not consent to a search and police choose to ignore you, you have a chance to get anything suspicious or illegal thrown out by a judge due to the violation of your rights. An experienced Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer will have a chance to protect your rights if you didn’t consent to the search, but if you agreed to the search or even simply didn’t say a word either way, you most likely have no case.
Refusing a search does not make you look guilty; in fact, it may even allow you to go on with your life without becoming a suspect in whatever the police think is going on.
Often people consent to police searches because they are afraid that refusing makes them look guilty. This is not the case. There is nothing fishy about exercising your rights, a fact that any judge will hold up in court. While some officers may imply that you are doing something wrong, you are fine. In fact, refusing a search may avoid later searches altogether. While little data exists on refused searches, anecdotal evidence indicates that you actually lessen the chance of an eventual arrest. Police routinely ask for permission to search when they have absolutely no evidence of a crime, so if you simply calmly and politely decline, you will do yourself a favor in the long run.
As U.S. citizens, we are lucky to have a Constitution that protects us against unreasonable searches. We just have to feel confident enough in ourselves to exercise that right. If you have had your rights violated in Ohio or if the police have found anything in a search that they intend to use against you, you will need an experienced Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer. Call the attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates at (513) 338-1890 to find out how we can help.