Traffic stops can spiral out of control fast, but can police in Illinois search your car if they don't have a warrant or even your consent?

I've watched plenty of true crime shows that often feature someone pulled over, whether for a traffic stop or whatever reason, the officer asks to search the vehicle. More times than not, the person says no since they definitely have something to hide in the car, so when threatened with getting a warrant, they oblige and let the officer search the car.

These criminals (and oftentimes just idiots) claim they know their legal rights when they actually can't even differentiate their butt from a hole in the ground so let's review what the law actually says.


What Illinois Law Says

It's true the Fourth Amendment protects your right to refuse to consent to a search (which you do not have to be sassy about doing, by the way). But you trying to hide sketchy stuff in your car is likely useless.

According to Illinois Legal Aid, police can still search your car without your consent or without a warrant. 

They only need one thing: suspicion that evidence of criminal activity is in the car. The legal website says:

Even without getting consent, police officers can search a car if they have probable cause to believe that the car contains evidence of criminal activity. Police can also search a car if the driver or passenger is arrested, as long as they could reasonably expect to find evidence inside the car. They can also search if the person being arrested could have accessed the car to retrieve weapons or evidence at the time of the search.

So if the officer sees drugs, alcohol, or anything else that shouldn't be in the car sitting there in plain sight whenever they pull you over for a routine traffic stop, yes, the officer can do a full search of your car regardless of why they pulled you over to begin with. You'll obviously lose it all too.

Illinois law firm Cosley Law says:

Police can seize any item they can see from a lawful location if they have probable cause to believe the item is contraband.

Of course the best way to curtail any of this is to just not be a Shady Susan and not have this stuff in your car.

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