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Under the Fourth Amendment, as well as various New York state laws, the police cannot search your car just because they feel like it. Generally, there must be a warrant presented to do any kind of search, much like in a home setting. But, there are circumstances in which a warrant is not necessary. Even if these criteria aren’t exactly met, the courts may still side with the officer, as there is less expectation to privacy when you are driving.

There are five general scenarios in which a warrantless search may occur. First, perhaps the most obvious, is if you give the officer permission to do so. Second, if the officer has reason to believe they should fear for their safety, such as suspecting you have a concealed weapon, a search may occur.

If an officer can look in the window of your car and, from that observation, suspect a crime is being committed, they do not need a warrant. Next, if you are arrested, your car may be searched in relation to the crime of which you are arrested, such as drug charges. The final way a warrantless search may be conducted is if your car is impounded by the police. The original reason for the impounding does not affect the legitimacy of the search, but they cannot seize your car just to conduct said search.

Because these circumstances are so broad, a criminal defense attorney may be able to fight any charges that come from a warrantless search. 

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