Vehicle: Search & Seizure

HIGHLIFE Magazine - Vehicle: Search and Seizure

By Michael Minardi

As A Citizen Of The United States, Founded Upon A Bill Of Rights, You Should Learn And Know Those Rights.  Knowing Your Rights Should Be A Priority Of All, It Is The Line That Protects Yourself From Unwanted Government Intrusion.

The Bill of Rights was enacted to prevent the government from infringing on the rights of private citizens.  As an American Citizen it is your duty to know your rights and how to use them.  There will be circumstances where you are faced with an officer knocking at your door, pulling you over, or stopping you on the street and you need to know your rights well to assert them.

This article is to inform you of the general aspects of asserting your rights.  The purpose is to help you defend yourself against an unlawful search and seizure.   There are three common types of situations; first, being in a vehicle; second being in your home; and third being on the streets, or public place.  In the age of technology please try to video the entire interaction with a cell phone or camera.  If you follow the rules, this recording can give us the proof we need to challenge the stop, search, and seizure in your case and refute any lies by law enforcement. 

Cannabis is not legal in Florida and you should not possess it in Florida.  In legal states cannabis, because of its odor should always be kept in a vacuum sealed air tight container, or some other type of method that would not allow the odor to permeate the vehicle.  The substance should be taken in and out of the vehicle, if possible, when the car is sitting.  Really, it should be kept at home and not be consumed in the vehicle.  The odor of smoked cannabis can stay in the vehicle long after you have left.  


Recognize the Law Enforcement Officers like any other authority figure, not different than teachers, elected officials, bosses, and other people in positions of power.  The one thing they are yearning for and expecting from everyone is respect, and the first thing you have to do in protecting and defending your rights is be polite.  If you are going to assert your rights, you should do so politely.  There is absolutely no reason for you to be aggressive or disrespectful in any way.  Just a little bit of politeness, “Yes Sir, No Sir”; showing respect goes a long way.  Try to have your paperwork in a convenient place so you can easily access it and present it to the Officer.  Make sure the officer understands you respect authority and you are not there to debate them or fight them. 

If you are getting pulled over, roll down the windows, slow down, put on your blinker, pull over in a safe spot, take a deep breath, and relax.

The first thing the officers look for when they approach a vehicle is how the driver is reacting, if you are acting nervously or fidgety a.k.a., paranoid in any way, it’s going to arise their suspicion an put them on guard. It is important to be relaxed and calm don’t become paranoid, take a deep breath.  It’s like the chicken and the egg, what came first the pot that makes you paranoid or the cop at your window. It’s a cycle, but the most important thing is for you to be relaxed, so they don’t sense anything suspicious.  Keep your hands up and on the steering wheel until the officer is at your window


The Officer is going to look through all the windows for anything suspicious.  If you have other windows open besides the window on the side that the officer is, the odor can exit the vehicle through those other windows as well.  There are times when they are going to smell the odor of cannabis.  If they do, there is really not much you can do.  You still must politely deny any consent to search and unequivocally request an attorney.

The Courts have consistently held the odor of cannabis allows law enforcement to search your vehicle.  If the odor of cannabis is permeating throughout the vehicle and the officer smells it, he can legally search the vehicle and there is nothing you can do to prevent the search.  You should still remain silent and never admit knowledge of anything found in your vehicle.

If you are out of the vehicle, the officer gives you a traffic ticket and asks if you consent to a search your vehicle, the answer is absolutely NO. I suggest saying the following, “Officer you know I understand your concern or you may have a desire to search the vehicle but I don’t feel that’s necessary and I respectfully decline”. Make sure you do so politely, in a manner that is not challenging him, and do not take a negative or angry stance with him.  This will only lead to an allegation of heightened suspicion and probably further torment by him of you. 

It is extremely important to maintain your cool, relaxed and calm throughout the entire interaction.  If they are going to search your vehicle make sure you are clear you have said no and you do not consent.  Tell them that if there are any closed containers in the vehicle they do not have consent to open any of them.  Again, when communicating with the officer be polite.  If something is found in your vehicle, you have to know how to react to it, first and foremost exercise your Miranda Rights.  Continue to read the magazine for other articles regarding your Miranda Rights, review the article to be properly prepared.  If there are multiple people in the vehicle do not give in to threats if one of you admits it I will let the others go or will not arrest everyone.  If everyone is silent it makes it extremely difficult for them to prove ownership over the items found.

The best method is to avoid getting pulled over.  To avoid this situation it is best to obey all traffic signals, don’t give them a reason to pull you over, stop at all stop signs, stop at the red lights before you make a right on red, don’t try to push it through the yellow light, do not give them a reason to pull you over and you can avoid most of these situations.  Follow the instructions above, be polite assert your rights, try to prevent the odor of cannabis in your vehicle, and be calm and respectful to the officer.  These tricks should go a long way to prevent you from getting into a situation where you are confronted with an officer requesting to search your vehicle.