Let me just say right at the beginning that if you consent to the police searching your car, you are making their job much easier. The police will repay the favor by arresting you.
When someone calls me after just being arrested for drug possession in Okaloosa County, the conversation usually goes something like this:
Client: I got stopped and the cop asked to search my car.
Me: You didn’t say yes, did you?
Client: Yes I did. I signed a consent to search form and allowed them to search.
Me: If you knew you had drugs in the car, why did you consent?
Client: I thought that if I said yes, they would think I had nothing to hide and they would just leave me alone.
Me: But you DID have something to hide.
Client: That’s why I need an attorney. You can still get this thrown out right?
Hopefully, this blog will be helpful in educating you about vehicle searches in Okaloosa County. I will give some useful information about what the police are allowed to do, and what standard of proof is required before they are legally allowed to stop and search your vehicle.
Is it legal for the police to stop my vehicle?
The standard of proof for a lawful traffic stop in Florida is Reasonable Suspicion. This level of proof requires more than just a hunch that you’ve done something wrong. The officer must be able to articulate specific reasons for his suspicion and those reasons must be objectively reasonable.
Can the police search my car?
In order for a vehicle search to be legal, the officer must meet a higher burden than Reasonable Suspicion. The standard for lawfully searching a vehicle is Probable Cause. Probable Cause is defined as a “substantial likelihood that criminal activity is occurring or has occurred.”
The cops in Okaloosa County are well-trained in what they can do and what they can’t do. They know that Probable Cause is a pretty high standard for them to meet. The way they get around having to meet it is to just ask the suspect for consent or permission to search.
Just Say No!
My advice to anyone who is stopped by the police in Okaloosa County is to refuse to consent to any search. The police will NOT leave you alone if you consent. They will search your car (possibly damaging it in the process) and if anything illegal is found, they will arrest you and possibly seize your vehicle under civil Forfeiture laws.
If you refuse consent, they will probably still search anyway, but at least you’ll have a fighting chance to challenge the search later in court.
If the police ask to search your vehicle, politely refuse. Do not argue with the officer or resist the officer in any way, or you could end up facing additional charges of Battery On Law Enforcement or Resisting Arrest. The time to challenge the officer’s actions is in court, not at the side of the road.
If your vehicle was searched in Okaloosa County and you were arrested, call Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 243-6097. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.