If you’re stopped by a police officer while driving in New York, you should know that there are protections that are afforded regarding searching your vehicle under the Fourth Amendment. However, there are some circumstances that could arise that would warrant a legal search of your vehicle and personal property.
If there is probable cause for an officer to arrest you, then a search can be performed in the immediate area of where you were located in the vehicle. These areas include where you would have been able to reach as well, even if it’s not directly beside your seat. An illegal search & seizure would take place if an officer were to open your trunk or begin searching your vehicle without any reason to place you under arrest.
When an officer believes that there could be a weapon in your vehicle, drugs, or other illegal items, then this could result in a probable cause search of your vehicle. There would need to be a clear suspicion that something could be found in a search if the officer were to look. If you have not committed any actions that would lead an officer to question the contents of your vehicle, then it could be used as a defense to an illegal search.
If your vehicle is impounded after an arrest, then an officer can search your vehicle. An inventory of the items that are in the vehicle would be taken to ensure that you receive your belongings when you’re released from jail or so that a responsible party can obtain your possession as long as they are not illegal.
When you’re stopped and questioned by a police officer, there are instances when your car can be searched and times when a valid reason is needed before a search can be performed.