The greatest threat to your legal rights is … you.

No, really. During our long experience as criminal defense attorneys in Wilmington, we have seen too many clients who simply don’t understand the protections the Constitution gives them. And so they throw away their legal rights, making it much more difficult to mount an effective defense against North Carolina felony charges.

We’ve talked before about refusing to answer when questioned by Wilmington police. Today, we will examine your rights to refuse a search of your person, home, or vehicle.

"Do you mind if we look around?”

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution requires that law enforcement officers must have probable cause to believe you have a connection to a crime before they can get a warrant to search you or your property. Now, if police witness some things personally, they can take direct action for a complete search. For instance, if officers come to your home and notice evidence of a crime underway when you open the door, they are permitted to conduct an immediate search of the premises. The results of that search can lead to your arrest.

However, if the cops don’t see anything immediately suspicious when you open the door, they cannot barge in. They can enter your house if you invite them in, or if you consent to their entering the house.

What many of our clients fail to realize is:

  • You have the right to refuse law enforcement officials permission to enter your house, to search your property, to search your person, or to confiscate any evidence they might find—unless they have a legal warrant.
  • If you refuse permission for police to enter your home or search your property, that refusal cannot itself be used as evidence of your guilt. Cops cannot get a warrant based on your refusal to allow a voluntary search,
  • You cannot be punished for insisting that you legal rights be respected.

If police begin searching your property without your permission, do not physically resist. Keep repeating that

  • You do not consent to a search of your property or person.
  • You do not wish to talk to law enforcement officials without your lawyer.
  • You demand your right to an attorney be honored immediately.

Your Car is a Special Case

Various court decisions have decided that the average person has no reasonable expectation of privacy in a vehicle. The protection afforded by the Fourth Amendment is a little weaker. Probable cause is still a requirement, but it’s more easily satisfied because of the windows in your car. Police can search the vehicle over your objections if they notice contraband through a window.

If you are pulled over for a routine traffic infraction—say, a bad turn signal light—the police officer may ask if you have any objection to his searching the car. Even here, you have the right to refuse. If the officer cannot find any other justification for conducting a search, he may detain you for a short while, but he will eventually release you on your way.

There may be a good reason for you to refuse a search, even if you lead a wholly innocent life. Did you loan your car to your brother-in-law a couple days ago? Are you absolutely sure that he didn’t leave something incriminating in the trunk, or tucked under a seat? It’s best not to take a chance. Never consent to a search of your vehicle.

Don’t Forfeit your Legal Rights

Some of the clients of our Wilmington criminal defense law firm end up in trouble because they threw away the legal protections they didn’t realize were shielding them. You’re already one step ahead. Our truncated civics lesson today will always remind you: never consent to a police search.

If you are being investigated for—or accused of—a criminal offense, please take the time to call 910-341-7570 or 877-593-4233 toll-free across North Carolina and connect with Speaks Law Firm. We have a top-notch criminal defense team dedicated to giving each client the best representation possible. We will make sure you understand all the legal jargon and know all your options at every step of the way. Contact us today so we can begin guarding your legal rights immediately.

R. Clarke Speaks
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Trial Lawyer and Founder of Speaks Law Firm, P.C.
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