Say you’re driving through unfamiliar roads in New Orleans, and one wrong swerve veers your car into a pole. When police officers respond to the scene, they report the accident and try to search your vehicle. Can police search your car after an accident?
You probably won’t think much of this question until you’re in this situation. However, it’s important to know your rights in the event that you’re subjected to a police search. Our car accident lawyers in New Orleans have the answer so you can understand whether a search is legal.
Understanding the Lawful Right To Search
When law enforcement arrives to report the accident, you probably aren’t thinking that they’ll try to search your car. You’ll likely be in a state of shock and not think clearly, which could result in you agreeing to a police search. However, you have the legal right to refuse an unreasonable search.
Both the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment and the local Louisiana Laws Revised Statutes 32:398 protect you from any illegal searches that police officers try to conduct. Learn more about your rights and how to respond to this situation.
Know Your Fourth Amendment Right
Under the Fourth Amendment, all citizens have protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. In other words, cops can’t search your property unless they have a valid reason. If you’re involved in a minor fender bender due to bad weather, police officers need to gather more evidence in order to search your car on the spot.
Otherwise, they cannot search your property without a warrant. There are some instances, however, when a warrantless search becomes lawful.
When Can Police Search Your Car After an Accident?
Although many ordinary circumstances prohibit cops from suddenly searching your vehicle, there are some notable exceptions. To search your car, the responding officer must have probable cause that you’re in violation of the law.
For example, if the officer smells alcohol on your breath, they’ll have reasonable suspicion that you broke the law by drinking and driving. This entitles them to search your car for any liquor bottles or evidence that supports their cause. If their reasonable belief supports an arrest, they may also search you for more evidence.
Now let’s say that instead of smelling alcohol on your breath, an officer notices an open liquor bottle on the seat next to you. Because the evidence is in plain sight, they are permitted to search the rest of the vehicle with the reasonable belief that you broke the law.
The police can search your car after the accident if it is impounded since this process involves removing all of your possessions from the vehicle so you can pick them up later. This process is not illegal but may provide police with evidence to use against you.
The only other time police can search your car after an accident is if you give verbal consent.
What To Do If Police Illegally Searched Your Car
If you find yourself in a car accident situation where you’ve experienced an unauthorized search, an experienced professional can advocate for your rights. Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be overwhelming, particularly if you’re pursuing a personal injury claim.
Consider seeking assistance from experts familiar with car accident cases. They possess the knowledge to assess the police report and present arguments supporting the notion that the vehicle search was conducted without proper justification or consent.
Consult With an Experienced Legal Team
Can police search your car after an accident? Yes, if the police officer has probable cause that you were driving under the influence or committing another crime.
Whether you’re interested in pursuing a personal injury claim after a car accident or need guidance specific to car accident cases, the Voorhies Law Firm can offer valuable assistance.Our trusted attorneys will fight on your behalf after an auto accident, assisting with your claim and protecting your rights. Reach out to our compassionate staff at (504) 875-2223 for a free consultation.