When Police Can Search Your Car Without a Warrant

December 2, 2020 | Bill Henry

Can police search your car in Colorado without a warrant? If you answered no, you’re wrong. In fact, if police tow your car, they may have the authority to look through it.

Criminal Law Attorney, Ian McDavid discusses how the law makes it possible for police to search your car without a warrant.

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Car Searches without a Warrant? Yes. 

You’re not wrong if you think police have to have a search warrant to look through your personal belongs. But – and this is an important one – Colorado law enforcement under some circumstances can go through your car without having a warrant.

How’s that possible, you ask? Doesn’t that go against our constitutional protections, you ask? Well, no, it doesn’t.

Here’s how they get around needing a warrant:

Let’s say you get pulled over for suspicion of driving drunk. Police arrest you and charge you with DUI.

At that point, police can decide whether to have your car towed.

If they tow your car, they can go though it later. Technically, what police are doing is taking an inventory of what is in your vehicle. Under the law, an inventory check is not considered a search, therefore they do not need a warrant.

This inventory check is an exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement, which protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Basis for Inventory Checks:
  1. To ensure you get back everything that’s in your car at the time it was towed.
  2. To make sure you do not have any contraband that would jeopardize the safety of the people towing and impounding your car.

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