What Happens if You Refuse to Let a Police Officer Search Your Car? 11 People Weigh In.

Most of us like to think that we know our rights when it comes to police investigations and the like. We know we don’t have to talk without a lawyer, and we know that we can refuse things like searching our vehicles and breathalyzers in the field.

Do you know what happens after you assert your rights, thought?

I wasn’t sure, but after reading through these 11 responses, I feel a little bit better prepared in case this ever happens to me.

11. I don’t think should be what happens.

I was repeatedly pulled over by the same officer in the same spot without any real reason for 2 weeks when I was a teenager.

The first time he said he should search my car but was letting me off as a warning and only ticketing me for loud exhaust (35 dollar fine).

Two days later he pulled me over again and immediately asked me to get out of the car so he could search it. I told him I didn’t consent to a search and he said my car was all the justification he needed. The car was a partially stripped out for drag racing Camaro Z28 and only had my backpack and registration in it. The officer decided to rip out the remaining interior pieces breaking the clips and throwing them in the grass. He finished his “search” half an hour later and told me he didn’t want to catch me in his neighborhood again. I live .5 miles from where this happened, so I do have to drive here every day.

The next day he did the same thing. I was driving the speed limit home from school and he pulls me over again. He tells me he warned me about driving in his neighborhood with my loud car. I said my car was legal and passes inspection and is my only car, so I will keep driving it. He decides this is justification to rip apart my interior again. This time he pried the speakers out of the doors and radio out of the dash for extra measure and drove off when he was done without saying a word.

I was pretty depressed with how I was being treated. This officer obviously had no interest in being reasonable and wanted to punish me for some perceived grievance I had caused. I told an officer friend I had about what was happening and he just told me to take down the officer’s badge if he did it again.

the next week I was pulled over again and I had not put my interior back together from the last time he searched it. I immediately asked why he pulled me over and asked for his badge number rather than letting him get the first word in. He responded with his badge number and said he was pulling me over for ripping down his road. (Speed limit was 40, I was doing 35 to try to stop this madness) He then proceeded to say that my messy interior was justification to search my car again and he proceeded to rip through it again for a third time.

At this point I was just tired of dealing with it. I called my friend at the department and gave him the badge number of the officer. My friend immediately said not to worry about it happening again.

The same friend offered to help me get my car back together and brought Starbucks for me at the next car club meetup he came to. The guy was a car enthusiast and since the meetup spot was where he was supposed to patrol he would come hang out most weekends. The harassment did stop, but I did lose most of my trust of police then. I have worked with the police professionally in the past few years, but I still have a healthy fear of the police.

10. This is one wild ride.

The story starts about two hours before I got pulled over. I’m living in an apartment building and my upstairs neighbors are terrible human beings -like “throwing fireworks off the balcony at 11pm, or 2am even sometimes”, type of human beings. They sucked.

One night about 3am, I’m just getting up for work and someone buzzes my door. The speakers didn’t work at the time, so I couldn’t ask who they were. I’m not the type of person to just let anyone in to my building, so, being on the first floor and just two doors down from the entrance, I went out to see who it was. I expected to find one of the dog owners I know there. Instead I found a young woman I didn’t recognize, who told me she’d been visiting someone in the building, went out for a smoke and locked herself out. They weren’t answering but they might have fallen asleep so maybe they didn’t hear, so she just hit every button on the panel to try to get buzzed in. Fine. She looked harmless enough, so I let her in.

She goes upstairs and I get back to my morning routine. Half an hour later there’s a knock on my door. It’s the girl. She needs a ride home, she says. She and a couple girls she knew had been partying with my upstairs neighbors, the assholes I mentioned earlier. The guys had been trying to set something up, I guess. She alluded to it being sexual, but said she wasn’t into it, so they waited for her to go have a smoke and then locked her out of the building because she was “no fun”. Since I had actually gone to the front door instead of just buzzing her in, she knew which floor I’d been on, and knocked on all the doors til she found me. Totally not weird at all, right?

So I don’t know what this girl’s all about, but she seems a bit drunk, a little upset, and she’s inside my building, and knows which door is mine. I’d lived there a couple years already, but I didn’t want any trouble with management because I’d lost a job semi-recently and they had done me a real solid on my rent til I got back on my feet. I needed this over, preferably quietly, but I’m not about to call the cops on her because she’s done nothing wrong.

So at that point there’s really nothing for it but to give her a ride. I ask where she lives, and I know the area. Bad neighborhood, but good people live in bad neighborhoods too, and it wasn’t too far out of my way, so I agreed. I told her to wait outside for me and I’d be out. We left at about 4:30am, early enough to drop her out of my way and still make it to work on time.

We get in the car and as we’re driving she’s thanking me profusely, telling me she didn’t know how she was going to get home without me, etc. We made small talk, she tells me her name was Angel. Okay, sure. Gradually she works her way around to asking if I’d be around in a couple of hours because she’ll need another ride to “the clinic” when it opens at 7. I asked where the clinic was out of curiosity, and she told me it was over by Wendy’s. The next building past the Wendy’s is the methadone clinic.

I’m not fit to judge anyone, and this is the Live Free or Die state, so it doesn’t really matter to me which clinic it is. I’m sorry I can’t help her out, but she said this ride was help enough anyway. Cool. So we get to her place and it’s one of those really run down places where the fence is overgrown, the lawn isn’t mowed, and there’s no front door, just a gaping black hole. Not A Nice Place, but this Isn’t A Nice Neighborhood, so whatever. She thanks me, gets out, and I drive away. I make it exactly one block before I’ve got blue lights in the mirror.

I pull right over, turn off the car, put the keys on the dash, turn on the dome lights, crack the window and wait. Guy walks up, License and Registration, What are you doing here, etc. I tell him I was dropping off someone who needed a ride and now I’m heading to work. He doesn’t think that’s true, because This Isn’t That Kind Of Neighborhood. He thinks I was buying drugs, or maybe sex, from the girl he watched me drop off, and he wants to search the vehicle.

Now. I’m not exactly a strident civil rights advocate, but I don’t talk to the police under almost any circumstances. I’ll cooperate with them and be nice and sweet while they write me a ticket for a moving violation, but I’m not consenting to a search without a warrant. Especially not when I’ve JUST had a stranger in my vehicle for about 15 minutes, in the dark, who I know to have had dependency issues with narcotics, and who had been partying that night immediately before meeting her. I don’t know what she may have accidentally dropped, intentionally disposed of, or mistakenly forgotten in my vehicle, but there’s no way in hell I’m taking that chance tonight of all nights.

So I tell him I’d rather he didn’t, and he tells me that what I’d rather doesn’t really matter. I know for a fact that if he didn’t need permission he wouldn’t be asking for it, and I tell him so. He counters that he’s not asking, he’s informing me that he’s going to search my car, and I need to step out. I tell him I’m not consenting to a search, but that I’ll step out, and I do so, and I lock the door with my keys still visible on the dash.

Oh man, did that make him mad. Says I’d just bought myself a broken window. Then he spends the next couple of minutes repeating himself in different ways, phrasing it any way he can think of to tease out an affirmative answer or even acknowledgment that he can twist into my having consented. He’s also alternately trying to make it seem like this is all totally not a big deal, just something he has to do this so he can let me go, or like he thinks I’m buying or possibly SELLING drugs and that “we need to clear things up”.

That’s about when his backup arrived. I thought to myself that at least now he wouldn’t have to play both the good cop and the bad cop by himself, but didn’t say that because I wasn’t trying to agitate things any further. This guy came in heated, though. Hands on the car, hands behind your back, stop resisting, etc. I almost have to laugh now looking back because he was so over the top right from the start.

Has me handcuffed, which as I’m sure many reading this can attest, can be made to hurt if they want it to hurt, and it does. Makes me sit on the curb, which is pretty cold and wet, but so am I at this point. Then he just starts yelling, making all kinds of threats, tells me I’m going to jail, names probably every law he can think of, I doubt some of them are even real at all. Meanwhile the first guy is peering through my windows with his maglight, desperately searching for the probable cause he claimed he didn’t need. The backseat was pretty messy, so there was lots for him to look at while we’re all out here in the rain. Fun.

Now Mister Backup takes over the game of trying to get me to either consent to a search, or to believe that they don’t need my consent anyway, telling me that I’m “making things worse” on myself by making him stand out here in the rain (he, at least, had a coat. I did not.) Tells me I’m definitely going to jail tonight, they’re just waiting for a car to take me. They already had two cars there at this point, so I ask if I’m being arrested and he says he’ll “tell me what (I am) once the K9 gets here.”

By this time I’ve been pulled over for about 30 minutes or so, so it’s nearly 5:30am. I’m about to be late for work at a job I’d just recently started, sitting handcuffed in the dark, in the rain, in the cold, on the side of the road, and nobody knows where I am except for the random rubberneckers driving by. They haven’t found anything by looking in the windows and I’m not budging. I think they expected me to just give in before that. I imagine most people probably do, but most people aren’t as distrustful as I am of police, and most people hadn’t just had a stranger ask them for a ride to the methadone clinic while inside the car they’re asking to search. They seemed at a loss, so they actually did call for the K9 at that point.

We waited about half an hour for them to arrive. I was left on the curb in the rain, in no jacket, exposed to the elements in 45 degree weather. The K9 shows up and he’s a Very Professional Pupper but I can tell he’s A Good Boy deep down, and he proves it by deciding not to sit when his handler repeatedly and blatantly tries to signal him to do so. He spends a good 5 or 10 minutes leading him around and around my car trying to get him to hit on something. Leading him away from my car and then back to it again. Bringing him back to the K9 car, then back to my car again, etc.

Finally a Supervisor pulls up. He talks to the K9, and they pack up and go. He walks up to the other two for like three seconds, and then Mister Backup comes and removes the cuffs, calls me an a$shole, and leaves. The cop who pulled me over comes and gives me my license back, tells me I’m free to go. No apology, nothing else about it. Supervisor drives away without a word to me, don’t think he even really looked in my direction.

I’m left alone, locked out of my vehicle, in the rain. It’s 6:30, and here comes Angel walking by, finally having given up on finding a ride to the clinic. She asks what I’m doing, so I told her what happened. She felt pretty horrible about the whole thing. She went and got a coat hanger from her place and I was able to bend it around enough to hit the lock through my still cracked open window, and I drove her to the clinic in thanks. Luckily, I didn’t get pulled over when I dropped her off that time.

9. Don’t let them intimidate.

It was a pretty funny experience telling a cop he couldn’t search my car.

I was working for Amperif Corporation as a Computer Field Engineer in 1984. Our company had developed the first Cache disk subsystem for the Sperry Univac 1100 series mainframe computers which were used by government agencies all around the country. I was assigned to take care of the system controlling some of the safety systems for the nuclear reactors.

As with most of our other sites, this was a VERY high security area requiring me to have a DOE Level Q Security Clearance. This was equivalent to a DOD Top Secret, which I also had.

I’d been going through security daily for months and knew the cops on a first name basis. We often had coffee together frequently talking about firearms. It’s not fair to call these people cops. Security officials at this level of the game are highly trained individuals more akin to Army Special Forces than cops.

One Saturday, mid afternoon my beeper went off alerting me to an issue at the facility. I arrived within 15 minutes. Massive errors across the system. It was down hard. Over the next few hours I couldn’t determine the cause. I phoned my company and they sent one of their hotshots out from Chatsworth California. They had to charter a plane from Spokane, WA to Richland, WA to get him there.

I called my wife at home and asked her to make two plates of dinner as I knew the arriving Engineer would be hungry. He arrived onsite around 1:00AM. I met him at security and we went down to the computer room. He ran some diagnostics for an hour or so and thought he might know what the issue was. I asked him if he wanted to eat before beginning to which he happily agreed.

We dashed to my house to pick up the plates my wife had and returned to the facility.

We wolfed down the meatloaf, mashed potatoes with gravy, and peas. While smoking our after dinner cigarette, my co-engineer went on and on about how great it was. We finished feeding, put the plates and utensils in the trunk of the rental, and went into the facility. At the security entrance I greeted the guards. They were the two mentioned above. My greeting was met with a cold unfriendly glare.

“Follow us,” they ordered and proceeded to take us outside. They started trying to open the doors to the car and I asked what they were doing.

“Searching the car,” came their reply.

I was taken aback. “Searching for what?” I asked.

“Open the car,” came their reply.

“No, you cannot search the car.” I told them.

They went on and on using their intimidation tactics. “This is Federal land, those rules don’t apply,” was one I heard more than once. Through this, I did try to turn things friendly. I told them everything we’d done since the other Engineer had arrived. More than once I asked them, “What the heck, you know me,” which they just brushed off.

Of course I heard, “If you have nothing to hide…”

After 20 minutes of back and forth, I still held my ground. I told them the only way they were getting into that car was with a warrant. I was well aware that we were on Federal Property and a warrant would have to come from a Federal Judge. The closest Federal Judge was in Spokane, WA and it was 4:00AM.

I recall telling them just that. “You go ahead and wake a Federal Judge at 4:00AM on a Sunday Morning just so you can find plates with mashed potatoes and gravy.”

The two of them stepped away and discussed the situation. Coming back they informed us they were going to do just that. I don’t recall what the other Engineer and I did while they were waiting for their warrant. We may have sat in security but it seems we may have been allowed back into the computer room to take care of the issue.

An hour or so later the warrant came through. They had their dog and handler with them when they searched. The dog alerted on something beneath the seat.

“Aha, got ya,” one of them said with a smile.

The other engineer and I watched closely as they pulled out a small piece of meatloaf from under the seat. It must’ve fallen from my plate while we ate.

Both the other Engineer and I laughed.

The finale of the story is both guards lost their posting at the Nuclear plant.

Citizens 1: Feds: 0

8. The cops had to ask him what happened next.

I was near home and trying to get in touch with a friend to get together. Instead of driving around I decided to park and wait, and since I knew the area and didn’t want to park right in front of someone’s house, I parked on the street a few blocks away in a cul de sac that never got developed- there were plans for houses there but nothing got built. I was listening to the Jets as they were beating Peyton Manning and the Colts in the playoffs and I couldn’t have been more surprised.

A squad car pulled up and briefly flashed the lights. Officer gets out to talk to me. First thing I asked was if I was parked illegally or if anything was awry with stickers or any other non-moving violation. The officer slid past that pretty quickly and wanted to know what I was doing, but I took an extra 10 seconds to be sure that there was no violation. Then I explained what I was doing- waiting for a call, listening to the game, and parked here because it’s out of the way.

The officer asked me if it would be okay with me if he searched the car. In all fairness, he was very polite. I paused and asked him to repeat the question. He repeated it as a request, as if I was free to accept or decline. I slowly told him that I am going to decline, and although I am thankful for him being polite and professional I wish to assert my 4th amendment rights. That’s exactly what I said.

We then got into a rather dense back and forth, although it was very polite on both sides. I wanted to know if they had reasonable suspicion, and both officers were unwilling to answer the first 3 or 4 times I asked. I reiterated that there was no moving violation and also no parking violation or any other violation, so they would need to have reasonable suspicion in order to even detain me. I also asked if I was being detained, and one of the officers reassured me that I wasn’t being arrested. I said I know that and thank you, but being detained is different from being arrested. For example- and I think I know the answer- am I free to go? I was not free to go, which is what I expected and I said so. At about that point I was asked to define reasonable suspicion, and I said it was a strictly law enforcement term that’s covered in the first week at the academy. Also it’s something that you need to have in order to legally detain someone, and for all intents and purposes you can give almost any reason for it. The only thing that can cast doubt on it is when you repeatedly refuse to say that you have it when asked about it, or if you say that the basis for it is the assertion of the 4th Amendment in and of itself.

One of them eventually told me that they had reasonable suspicion, and he gave me a brief explanation even though I had told him I didn’t need one- I only needed him to say that he has it. We then got back to the matter of whether they were going to search my car. I repeated the assertion of the 4th Amendment, but I gave them a bit of an out- I said I will assert it in a provisional manner, which is to say I assert it insofar as it legally prevents you from performing the search against my will. If the search does happen it won’t be because I gave it up voluntarily- it will be a non-optional search because you decide it’s mandatory and that you are able to make it happen.

At that point they actually asked me what was required in order to make it happen. I told them that’s not my decision to make, that’s literally your decision. If you think you have the goods and can give the order, I will follow the order- I do understand that it may or may not be according to procedure or entirely legal, but I also understand this is not a courtroom and I will not attempt to litigate anything at this time. Just remember that litigation is very possible at a later time, and the legality of a potential search may be reviewed by a judge. Also if you do find something and the chain of evidence is messed up, you’ll have egg on your face and you’ll also lose a collar. I compared it to a situation where you arrest someone without mirandizing them. You can do this. No one will stop you in the moment. It will come back to bite you though, and you’ll wish that you did it correctly.

With all that being said, I assert my 4th Amendment rights but I promise I will follow orders if orders are given, and once again thank you for being professional and very very polite. So it’s your decision now- can you search the car under the circumstances?

They decided that they could, and they did. Once they made that decision I did cooperate- immediately exited the vehicle unlocked the doors and asked where to stand. One officer searched while the other asked me about the football game- I bet Manning is lighting it up, he said. I really was listening to the game though and I gave him an accurate update up to the drive that was in progress.

They didn’t find anything and that was pretty lucky for them. It wouldn’t have gone great for them if we had to litigate that. One of them did tell me that was the first time they’d made a search in a similar situation without finding something- which makes me wonder how well they’d been following protocol up to that point. After all that they actually got a little rude as they sent me off, telling me that I should park somewhere else and get away from there. I said I just came up clean and I can legally park here, also I don’t want to go driving off right in front of you because it would be so easy to give me a ticket as soon as I start moving. They told me just get out of here. I asked if they were going to invent a reason to pull me over. They didn’t really answer.

I did pull away and they did not pull me over. I guess they really didn’t want me parked in that area. We did have an extremely detailed exchange pertaining to legal matters though, and I’m sure they went over that with other people in their department. I do hope they were able to get their procedure straightened out. There’s a lot to it, and although I do think they played dumb to some extent on order to keep me talking, they didn’t reach a great conclusion by the end of it.

In hindsight, that wasn’t the best move for me because I really had nothing to hide. This is a wet dream for someone that Does have something to hide though. I would have been pretty okay if they had turned something up. For anyone that may have something to hide at some point, it may not be a good idea to demand a warrant- that just might happen. Your best bet might be to see if you can bait them into an illegal search after you asserted the 4th Amendment. In my situation though, I should have said you need a warrant for that. I knew better and I basically let them do it, even though it wasn’t done the right way.

7. You need to carve out some time.

I have shared this story before but it fits this question perfectly because it happened to me. I was driving a truck at the time and had just got in from a long day from Phoenix. I was in Ontario, CA and it was about 2:00am.

Apparently I had a headlight out. Our yard was behind the Ontario Airport and all commercial. It was a ghost town so when the car heading towards me flipped a quick U turn so I knew he was pulling me over. I had no idea the reason at the time. He let me know though. I had a headlight out. OK, no big deal. My eyes were red from driving and being tired.

After telling me about my headlight and asking for my ID he mentioned my eyes. I told him I was tired. He was very friendly and asked if he could search my car. I said I wanted to get home and go to bed. Some more chit chat and he asked again. Once again I said no and told him I had about a 30 minute drive home and it was late so no. I just wanted to be on my way and thanks for letting me know about my headlight.

It was then that his tone changed. I told him he couldn’t search my car since he didn’t have probable cause. He told me he would get a search warrant. I told him to go ahead and wake up a judge to sign it and then he was free to search the car. He said there were people on duty to sign them. I said well then call. (I was tired but in that kind of mood).

Next he used the line about getting a dog to search for drugs. I told him that he was only allowed to detain me as long as a normal traffic stop would take and we were past that time but since I wanted to cooperate I would wait for the dog but I was going to get back in my car and sleep until the dog got there. After about another 1/2 hour or so he woke me up and told me I was free to go. I asked if the dog had cleared me and he said the dog was tied up with another call so he was just going to issue me a ticket for the headlight. I said there was no need for the ticket, I would have it fixed the next day. But he still gave me a ticket which just meant now I would have to get it signed off after the repair was made. Just a little inconvenience for me.

After a little over an hour I was on my way home. And my car was drug free. I could have just let him search and saved a lot of time but I decided to be a rights fighter that night. Sometimes it’s good to let them know you know what your rights are. It helps keep them honest.

6. Just say no…peacefully.

I am fortunate in that all of my interactions with the police have been peaceful. Not necessarily friendly, but peaceful.

Every time I’ve been pulled over they ask, and I used to say I didn’t care figuring it would move things along faster. I was younger and dumber then.

I have a pretty good specific story from 2015 that comes to mind. I am from a recreationally legal state, and my license plates reflect that. For the first few years we were the main legal state (of 2) and so our plates were an instant red flag. I was working in southern Illinois, in an area that self identified as more Kentucky than Illinois. But was spending a weekend exploring Chicago. After a couple nights sleeping in my car in a hipster neighborhood near the Loop, I was driving home the last night of the weekend, but state patrol decided it pertinent to delay me. Shortly before I got out of town on one of the myriad highways in the area, they lit me up.

We’ll preface the rest of this with the fact that their prejudice and misguided attempt at LE probably saved me from a DUI as I had had some fun earlier that evening while walking around downtown. They pull me over and check my ID and insurance and registration which are spotless. Ask me what I’m doing and where I was going, and am nothing but honest. He says he wants me to come over and sit in his car with him and talk a little more. I comply because again, stupid kid.

He asks how long I’ve lived in the state and I preclude that ticket (failing to change residency in a timely fashion) by informing him that being a seasonal employee, especially for the Department of Agriculture, I am immune to residency laws unless I should move to Illinois permanently. During a relay of the same honest story including summary of the fun times I had in Chicago with some details omitted to cover my ass, another cop pulls up. It is apparently unheard for a townie from Colorado to want to have a fun weekend exploring the wonders of Chicago, and yet not know anyone in the area.

He decides he doesn’t buy my story and therefore needs to search my car. I deny their request, which is a red flag to LE, and they tell me it’ll be over a lot quicker if I let them. I inform them that they won’t find anything anyway, so it’s faster if we don’t waste the time, matter of fact. “We already have a k9 en route, so it’s gonna save you a lot of trouble if you let us know what you have now, rather than after the dog finds it” “what, pray tell, will the dog find? I told you there is nothing” “we’ll go easier on you if you tell us what you got” same drivel a few times over.

The k9 unit shows up and so, for my own safety of course, they have to put me in the back of the original cop car while the dog does its pass. They run it around the car checking about 8 points with a quick bark from the dog at each station. They do it again but have the dog jump up each time and again, same behavior as the first time. No single pause from the dog was any different from the others. They put the dog away and come tell me he alerted at the rear driver’s side and the passenger side of the trunk. I was of course skeptical because from my vantage there was no distinction for any point. Now they’ve made up probable cause so they can go through my car despite any actual cause.

They say it should be pretty quick if theres nothing of interest, is there anything they should be worried about etc. I let them know there isn’t besides wasting our collective time (mine being more valuable, as they are hourly). “Well why would the dog alert if you haven’t anything?” “I don’t know, but I don’t believe the dog did alert he barked the same every time.” “Well you didn’t see what we see the officer is highly trained blah blah blah lies and technicalities” so they can remain in the right. I tell them to go quickly.

Here’s the part that really gets me: they kept asking where all my traveling money was, where do I keep my cash, that kinda thing. I tell them I mostly use my card because it is the modern day. But say I had some cash, what amount would qualify for them to rob me on unconstitutional asset forfeitures laws, especially when they have already decided I’m guilty and just need a hair of proof.

They also were highly confused that my hiking boots and bag with clothes and water and some snacks was in my trunk if I was in the large flat metropolis of Chicago. That was 1) always in my car because you always need to be ready for a hike, 2) was the best I could wrangle for a bugout bag because everyone should have a go bag ready in their car at all times and I was a poor seasonal. After a few idiotic questions about possessing a jug of water and hiking clothing they remind me that if they find anything even just a flake of marijuana I am busted. It’d be better if I just told them now. There hadn’t manifested a thing to share since I appeared in the back of the car and informed them as much. I even had some of that energy goo runners and hikers carry in my hiking bag that was questionable enough to bring to my attention and ask what it was and why I had it. I told the officer what it was and he asked, dumbfounded, “Are you a hiker?” “I work on a trail crew you moron we’ve been over this”

After over 45 minutes since the search began they finally conceded that I didn’t have anything and let me on way. In all, over 90 minutes wasted all night and because they were so determined on a drug bust they failed to check for anything else and probably could have nabbed me.

Long story short cops need probable cause or consent, and when it isn’t present they will manufacture it. They will search you if they want to.

5. You never know what other people left in your car.

This happened about 7 years ago. My right headlight had just gone out and I was driving home from a friend’s house. I am not alone in the car. I’m driving three of my friends. One, we’ll call Al, who was a scruffier, older guy – about in his late 40s. The second, we’ll call Travis, who is a 17 year old minor at the time of this incident. The third person, we’ll call Josh. Josh is in his late twenties and a little older than me, the driver.

I feel like it’s important to note that I am the designated driver in this scenario. I am the soberest person in this vehicle, with the exception of Travis (who had nothing to drink but didn’t have a license). I am driving each of the occupants in my car to their homes.

As soon as I pass the police vehicle on my right, I know instantly that he’s going to pull me over, as I had discovered that my light was out only three days earlier. As expected, I see the flashing lights appear in my rear view mirror and pull over to the side of the road. Almost immediately after he stops his car, another cop car appears behind him and at this point my heart is racing but I put on a brave face and roll down my window.

As officer 1 gets out of his car, Josh, who is sitting in my back seat, goes full idiot and begins to lick the window, laughing as he does so. Sadly, Josh isn’t trying to piss me off – this is just how he is. Of course, Officer 1 sees him licking the window and gives me a “look.” I manage a strained smile and tell him, “I’m sorry, sir, he’s had a bit to drink.”

We go through the usual process, I show him my license, my app with my insurance on it (USAA doesn’t send out paper insurance cards), he walks me to the front of the car to show me the busted headlight and we’re exchanging normal banter, nothing to worry about. Just as I’m thinking I’ll get home tonight with out any issue and with just a fix it ticket, F***ing Josh begins to lick the damn window again.

Officer 2 sees this and looks at Officer 1. They both look immediately at me and do typical cop poses (one has his arms crossed, two has his hands on his belt). Officer 2 says, “do you mind if we search your vehicle, ma’am?”

I’m dead. I know for a fact Josh has marijuana on him and I’m also positive that Al has paraphernalia on his person, not to mention the rest of the alcohol in his bag (read: open container). If I’m not going to jail tonight, they are for sure. I had one job to do – just get these dumb asses home from the party and I failed.

I take a breath and do my best to look like I’m considering their question. Maybe 2 seconds have passed. I say in response, “that sounds like it could take a little while and I’ve really got to get these guys home soon. I work with all of them and we all have to be at work by 6 AM tomorrow morning (a half truth – we did all work together but none of them had to work in the morning). I really don’t have time for a search.”

I hold my breath. They exchange a look, shrug and say, “Ok, have a nice night, ma’am.” Then they both get in their cars and I get back into mine and we drive in opposite directions. Everyone in my car has over heard this exchange and they are looking at me with eyes as wide as saucers, like they’ve just seen the greatest magic trick in the world.

4. At least they paid up.

My freshman and sophomore year of high school I lived in a small town in northern Arizona. I drove a 77 Camaro Z28, kitted out for drag racing. I’m not exaggerating when I say these small town cops pulled me over twice a week, for about 3 months. The funny thing is, I got pulled over for speeding all the time, even though I was never actually speeding when the cop pulled me over. I’ll be the first to admit I drive that car like I’m on a racetrack sometimes, but every single time they pulled me over I’d actually been going the speed limit. Yet when I was speeding, they were nowhere to be seen. Anyhow, my first time getting pulled over was for not having a license plate light. I explained to the officer that the car never had one to begin with, and that I assumed it would be grandfathered in. After all, there was a man down the street from the spot that he’d pulled me over that drove a Ford Model T, and it didn’t even have turn signals.

He wrote me a fix it ticket anyway, and I just bought an aftermarket light and installed it. The next week I get pulled over for “excessive acceleration” which definitely isn’t a thing, but the cop gave me a warning so I didn’t get too heated about it. Later on that week, I’m driving to a buddies house and notice that a cop is behind me. I generally prefer to avoid small town police because I drive a Camaro. So I turn onto a side street, cop turns to follow me. So I turn again, again, and precede to keep randomly turning to try to get this cop off me. I obeyed all traffic laws, and this goes on for about 20 minutes before he pulls me over. He then writes me a fix it ticket for not having TWO license plate lights. I explain to him that I’d already gotten a fix it ticket for not having one, he said the law is 2, writes me a ticket. So I go to Walmart and buy one of those reading lights that clip onto a book and just clip it to the license plate and call it good.

Next week, my brakes go out so I replace them. I get pulled over for not having brake lights, I realize that whenever I adjusted the pedal, I moved it back a bit too far. On older cars and trucks the brake pedal hits a button attached to a rod in the floor that activates the brake lights. So I take the valve cap off one of my tires and put it on the end of the button, ask the cop if my lights are working now, he says yes, I go “so you still gonna write me a ticket?” He laughs and goes “yep”. The next week, I’m with my friends and we get pulled over yet again. The officer explains to me that he’s citing me for the law that says you’re not supposed to have more than 1 person under the age of 18 in your car until you’ve had your license for 6 months. It was literally 3 days before I would’ve had mine for 6 months and I’ve never heard of anyone actually enforcing that rule. The cop tells me that because I have a 14 year old girl in the car, he needs to search the car. The girl was a freshman who was dating my buddy, who was also a freshman. I explain that to him and he says he still needs to search my car.

He then asks for my parents number. I explain to him that I am an emancipated youth, and that I never had parents, I grew up in foster care until I chose to become emancipated. He then starts pressuring me and being a straight up jerk like “where are your parents?” “Well what’s wrong with you why didn’t your parents want you” crap like that. I refuse to let him search my car because there was an open bottle of alcohol in the trunk. Let me explain before you assume it’s the usual teenage antics – as I said, my Camaro is fitted for drag racing. And this was when I was a bit younger and didn’t have as much money, so my car had an alcohol carb. The carburetor used alcohol to burn faster and accelerate the car faster.

That’s all the alcohol was ever used for. But I knew the officer wouldn’t buy that, so I refused to let him search my car. He kept trying to pressure a yes out of me and I kept insisting no. Eventually he just writes me a ticket for having too many kids under the age of 18 in my car. A bit later, I get pulled over for doing 40 in a 35. I had just gotten my car painted and gotten new rims, I had just picked it up from the shop maybe 15 minutes ago. It had rained earlier that morning, so the side of the road was all muddy. I was so excited about how great my car looked and not wanting to dirty it up already, so I keep driving for maybe a half mile until there’s a paved area to pull over. I pull over, and the officer takes my information.

He then states that he is considering giving me a ticket for evasion since I didn’t stop right away. I told him that citizens may pull over where they please as long as they make it clear to the officer that they will pull over. I left my turn signal on and drove slowly so the cop knew that I’d seen him and wasn’t taking off. I should also mention that I was in the middle of fixing the window motor at the time, so my window didn’t roll down, so I had to open the door to communicate. Then 2 more cops roll up. I had my buddy with me, who at the time was going through a legal battle for “sexually assaulting” a kid on our wrestling team.

(Spoiler alert, all he’d done was hit the kid in the nuts after the kid five starred him, and he’d go on to be cleared of all charges) so the cops start pushing really hard to nail us for anything they could. They ask to search the car, I decline. They state that because of my “present company” they have probable cause. I insist that they don’t and that I will not consent to a search. They do the whole good cop bad cop routine, and it doesn’t work. Then the officer goes “hey my dog is bored so I’m gonna let him run around your car” sure buddy. He’s “bored”. That was just their way of getting to search me with a K9. I wasn’t worried because I didn’t have anything to hide.

Then the dog literally jumps up onto the hood of my car. Onto my $5,000 paint job that I’d worked my ass off for that was literally a single day old. I poke my head out the door, still sitting down, to say “hey man can you please keep him off my car”. I felt like crying because I worked so hard for that paint job and it looked so good and the dog left deep scratches in the hood. As soon as I poke my head out the cop goes for his gun and screams “get the f*** back in the car stop showing aggression!” So my buddy and I are freaking out because we just had a gun pulled on us.

The third cop there was a lady and seemed much more calm, so I politely ask her to please get a supervisor out here. She informs me that she is a supervisor. They pack up the dog and write me a ticket for 40 in a 35, and that was that. The next day, I get pulled over for 37 in a 35. Literally 2 miles over the speed limit. Cop gives me a warning, and I drive straight to the police station. I walk in and request to speak with the police chief. I hear “What’s up Toni?” Little did I know, one of my youth leaders from church was in fact the police chief.

I knew he was a cop, but I was unaware that he was the chief for our town. I explain to him that his officers pull me over twice a week for the dumbest things, and how they have even followed me around for 30 minutes trying to find something to pull me over for. I explain to him how I’d just gotten my car painted and he knew how much I loved that car because we talked about it in church all the time. He gives me some paperwork to fill out about the incident and takes some pictures of the damage. He promises me that it will stop, I walk out and go home.

Until the day I moved away for college, I was never pulled over in that town again. Even better, a few weeks later, I got a statement in the mail that I could take to the shop that had painted my car that instructed them to repair the paint and bill the city for it. Needless to say, I got the paint fixed and got 2 race stripes added free of charge, at least, free of charge to me.

3. Cops like to push the envelope.

Me driving a delta 88 with a 455. My roommate is in the front passenger seat. Three neighbor guys riding in the back. At least one under age drinking from the party we are leaving. Exhaust a turbo muffler with a glass pack to resonate on this big block muscle car. Running some curves and hills. Really making some speed and noise. Come up to the top of a hill where I know just over the top is a 4 way stop on a downslope that is hard to stop at. So I slow going up the top of the hill before cresting. As I coast down the other side and stop at the sign I see a state trooper sitting at the bottom of the hill. No biggie as I was out of sight for anything I did do, the car was legal, and I was below the speed limit when he could see me. As I pass him he pulls us over.

The trooper asked for my License and registration, no problem. I ask what i have been stopped for. He says speeding. Really. So I ask him how fast I was going and if he can show me the radar. He says he knows I was speeding from hearing my driving. I literally start laughing. Now he’s pissed. So he asks for everyone else’s IDs. At that point I told everyone to hold on a minute and I would take the heat if I was wrong but to not pull out their IDs. I asked him why he needed theirs as they were not the driver. I asked him if he had probable cause, if they looked like anyone wanted or with a warrant. This gets him really going and now he wants to search the car. At that point I refuse and ask if he sees anything in the car he can point out as a reason to search it. We go back and forth several times. When it is apparent he is on shaky legal grounds he decides to do a full inspection on the car. He finds my tailpipe is one inch shy of the center of the rear axle. I kid you not, that is what I got the ticket for. My exhaust is one inch too short.

As I leave he follows me all the way to the county line looking for me to make a mistake. Nope. So he turns around as I drive away.

I decided to stay at my dad’s that night so after dropping everyone off I headed over there and while there asked my dad – the local chief of police – what I should do. After he stopped laughing he said to just get an exhaust splice and a pipe clamp, take the receipt to the judge and the ticket would be dropped. And then he suggest I contact my uncle and tell him my story. So I called my uncle and after telling him who, when, and where, it turns out my uncle was the state trooper’s supervisor. One written reprimand later. Poetic justice.

Cost to me, $3.50.

Was I an angel in this ? No, however, the trooper exceeded his authority and legal standing with what he had to work with at the time. Was I respectful at all times, yes. A couple things worked for me in this. I spent a lot of time with my dad on patrol talking over the law and personal rights. Second, I told everyone that no matter what happened, to say nothing and keep their mouths shut. Third, I had family backing me. Only when he made a smart comment about me being a lawyer or something did I mention I was a police officer’s kid. I did not use it to get out of the ticket and paid for what needed to be paid for. He on the other hand was aggressive, threatening, attempting to instigate conflict, and placing his department in line for a lawsuit. I walked a very fine line that day and was very lucky no one made a mistake.

2. They might call in the dogs.

If the police officer is asking, it means they do not have probable cause to detain you and search you or your property for incriminating evidence. If they are intent on searching for incriminating evidence, it’s your choice to allow them and your right to deny them.

The next thing that usually happens is the officer will decide whether it’s worth their time to call a K-9 unit to come and sniff around the car while it’s closed and locked. The K-9 is trained to indicate the detection of illegal narcotics by sitting or some other indicator. More often than not, the dog will hit on a false positive, but in most states, a K-9 reaction is enough to warrant a search for illegal narcotics inside the vehicle.

A couple of things to keep in mind though;

First, cooperation with law enforcement officers will always yield more favorable results than if you offer resistance. Chances are, this guy is just trying to eliminate the possibility that the contact person has a weapon which they could use against them during the contact.

But then, consider that the officer is also only looking for incriminating evidence. If you have such evidence, you might want to hold off on letting them in. Having a pair of gloves, a tire iron and a screwdriver in the same general location are indirectly connected with someone who is involved with a burglary and such evidence is used to arrest people. Having more than one issue of National Geographic with pictures of naked indigenous children could constitute child pornography. These are items of relatively innocent possession yet a search of your vehicle could turn them against you.

Also to consider in that regard is one situation which has happened to me personally. I knew I had nothing incriminating in my vehicle and I was sure of it. I was on my way home from night classes when I was stopped and the officer told me the stop was for driving too fast for road conditions. It was late, I was doing 47 in a 45. Anyway he asked to search my car and being confident in the fact that I had nothing illegal, I told him to have at it. I handed him the keys and walked to the front of his cruiser. He proceeded to rifle through every orifice of the car, grabbing things from the glovebox and console, then scattering them across the seats and floorboard. When he got to my trunk, he dumped the contents of my suitcase all over the trunk, spilling out onto the pavement. My school backpack was treated with the same disrespect. My laptop fell out of the bag, hit the bumper and smashed onto the ground. He picked it up off the ground and chucked it into the trunk. About 15 minutes in from the initial contact, two other officers show up, which is about the time the first officer concludes his search. These two start their own search, one in the trunk, the other in the passenger area and then swap. After more than an hour, my keys and paperwork were returned to me and I was released. One of the two cops said to me before I left, that I should try to keep my belongings more organized than this, speaking about the mess that they left in my car.

I have only ever been asked to search my vehicle once and I regret not exercising my fourth amendment right. I thought I was being courteous by allowing them to trample my rights and my personal effects. From now on my only response will be to tell them they may search my car when they have a warrant to do so.

1. They always need your consent.

I was driving in Arizona about 1 hour from the California border in the early morning. The cop stopped me claiming that I was driving “erratically” (update, I think this was the correct term) not speeding. I was tired because I slept in my car in the rest area instead of going to a hotel the previous night.

He asked me to get into his car for a few questions. He was a cop from the K-9 unit and there it was a K9 behind me while I was being questioned. From that point I knew this guy was trying to bust people for drugs. He asked questions about my life and family, which seemed to be chitchat but I felt increasingly weird. I suspect he was trying to see whether I was intoxicated so played along, he got nothing on me.

After what felt like 10 minutes I felt he was trying to hold me there, so I stopped talking and asked whether I could go, and refused to answer any more questions. He then asked to search my car, I said no I wouldn’t consent to that.

Now at this point it is getting to the climax point. He said he was going to search with his K9, and he didn’t need my consent. Also he let me know that there was a cop next to his car. So this guy was actually waiting for his backup and sort of witness the entire time he was having a friendly talk with me. He then took his K9 behind my car, proclaimed that the K9 sniffed something, then proceeded to search my car.

Of course he’s got nothing, I rented the car 3 days ago and only thing his dog could’ve smelt would’ve been the snacks, not even alcohol but water. He wrote me a warning for “driving erratically” then let me go.

That led me to think, the backup cop was probably the only thing that could have prevented him from planting drugs in the rental car, he didn’t even have a camera on while he proceeded to search. Pretty scary stuff when we all think that police were not allowed to search without a warrant.

Friends and I were also stopped by police claiming the same thing in wine country Napa before, we had a laugh because we’ve only reached Napa 30 minutes, didn’t even have a chance to sip one drink or buy any bottles. But those driving behavior excuses are certainly just trying to stop and incriminate people.

Well, there you have it – now we all know.

Just in case.