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Getting pulled over by the police can induce stress. When the officer asks to search your car, anxiety escalates. Do you know your rights? Can police search your vehicle without your consent? The law surrounding car searches during traffic stops weaves a complex web.

Knowing when police can conduct a search without your consent or a warrant empowers you to assert your rights and cooperate with law enforcement officers. Here is a look at when police can search your car during a traffic stop in Maryland.

Probable cause drives searches

An officer might search your car if they believe probable cause exists. Probable cause is reasonable grounds to think a crime has occurred. If an officer smells marijuana or sees an open alcohol container in your car, they have probable cause to search your vehicle.

Seeing is believing

Evidence of a crime in your car, visible to an officer during a traffic stop, allows the officer to search your car. If a bag of illegal substances or a weapon lies on the passenger seat, the officer does not need your consent to search the vehicle.

Arrest leads to search

When an officer arrests you during a traffic stop, they can search your vehicle. The search ensures the officer’s safety by removing any accessible weapons and prevents the destruction of evidence.

Consent grants search access

When you give the officer permission to search your car, they can do so without a warrant or probable cause. You have the right to refuse a search, and your refusal cannot serve as a reason for arrest.

Knowing when police officers can legally search your car during a traffic stop can help you avoid unlawful searches. Be respectful to the officers and pay attention to the specifics so that you will know if they violated your rights.