If Tennessee traffic stops make you feel uneasy, you are in good company. For many people, seeing those blue lights flashing in the rearview leads to immediate anxiety, even if they are not doing anything wrong. However, knowing your legal rights with regard to search and seizure during a traffic stop may go a long way in terms of keeping you out of trouble and getting you back on the road.
According to FlexYourRights.org, if law enforcement officers want to search your home, they generally need to possess a warrant. While a warrant also may give officers a right to search your vehicle, an officer who wishes to do so may be able to do so without a warrant. Whether the search may move forward depends on whether that officer has something he or she considers to be “probable cause.”
Defining probable cause
“Probable cause” has to be more than a hunch or suspicion. An officer who wants to look through your vehicle must have either your permission or some type of evidence or proof that illegal activity took place in your vehicle. If the officer who stops you sees or smells something illegal in your car, this may give him or her valid grounds to move forward with searching your vehicle.
Understanding your rights when there is no probable cause
An officer may attempt to get you to agree to a vehicle search even without probable cause or a warrant. However, in this situation, you maintain your right to say no to the officer’s search request.
If you decide to refuse the search request and the officer lacks probable cause or a warrant, be sure to remain cordial and polite when doing so.