Knowing your rights during a Virginia traffic stop may go a long way when it comes to helping you avoid unnecessary hardship. More specifically, if the law enforcement officer who pulls your car over wants to look through it, it pays to know when you do and do not have to allow the vehicle search to take place.
According to The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, certain things have to be true for a Virginia law enforcement officer to search your car without a warrant or your permission.
What a law enforcement officer needs to conduct a search
The main determining factor in whether authorities have the right to search your car during a traffic stop in the absence of a warrant or your permission is whether they have anything that constitutes “probable cause.” Probable cause has to be more than a suspicion or hunch that something illegal occurred. It has to be some type of evidence or proof of illegal activity, such as an officer seeing stolen property in your backseat or smelling an illegal substance coming out of your car.
What happens when no probable cause exists
If the officer who wants to look through your car lacks probable cause and you do not want him or her looking through your vehicle, voice your preferences clearly and politely. Tell the officer you do not consent to the search and then see if you may leave the scene.
Keep in mind that being anything other than polite and courteous when communicating with members of law enforcement may come back to hurt you later on.
The SSA considers information received from the public, medical and scientific experts and the National Institutes of Health when deciding what types of conditions merit compassionate allowances.