Can the police search my car after pulling me over for driving while impaired in North Carolina?

When Do the Police Need a Warrant to Search Your Car?Under the United States and North Carolina constitutions, you are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures. In general, this means that the police must obtain a search warrant before searching your vehicle. However, there are exceptions to this rule when a police officer stops you for driving while impaired (DWI) in North Carolina.

When Can the Police Search Your Vehicle Without a Search Warrant When Stopping You for DWI?

There are a number of exceptions to the rule against unreasonable searches and seizures that allow the police to search a vehicle without a warrant when stopping someone for DWI. These include the following:

  • Probable cause. If the police have probable cause to believe that you are participating in criminal activity or that there is evidence of a crime in your vehicle, they can search your vehicle without a warrant. Examples of probable cause include seeing something in plain view, such as a gun or drugs, smelling marijuana or alcohol in your vehicle, or observing your bloodshot eyes or an odor of alcohol.
  • Searches incident to your arrest. The police may be allowed to search your vehicle incident to your arrest to look for guns or other evidence relating to your arrest.
  • Consent. If you consent to the search of your vehicle, the police would be permitted to do so. You should not consent to the search of your vehicle as you would be waiving your right to challenge the search if evidence is found that can be used against you. Your refusal to permit a search without a search warrant cannot be used against you later in court.

What Should You Do If You’re Pulled Over?

If the police stop you, remain calm and polite. You should stop your vehicle, roll down the window, and put your hands on your steering wheel where they are in plain view. You should also say as little as possible while answering the officer’s basic questions.

Have you been arrested for DWI in Mecklenburg County? Our experienced DWI defense attorneys are here to answer your questions and help you build a strong defense to the charges that you face. Fill out our online form or call our Charlotte office to schedule your free initial consultation.

 

Howard W. Long, II
Charlotte Criminal Defense and DWI Lawyer

Our Approach To DWI Cases

WE WILL GET YOU DRIVING AGAIN
Simply being charged with DWI in North Carolina often results in your driver’s license being revoked for a minimum of 30 days. However, we can typically get your driving privileges reinstated almost immediately. We do this by either, first, challenging this civil license revocation, or second, getting you a limited driving privilege.
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WE WILL GATHER EVIDENCE
Whether you realize it or not, a considerable amount of evidence exists regarding your DWI charge, much of which is vital to an effective defense of your case. We will review your court file, subpoena necessary documents, videos, and notes, and file the appropriate pretrial motions in a timely manner.
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WE WILL FIGHT FOR YOU IN COURT
As former prosecutors, we are aware of all the potential defenses that may be available to you. We do not automatically assume you intend to plead guilty and face the harsh consequences associated with a DWI conviction. We pledge we will examine every possible defense and take your case to trial if it is in your best interest.
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WE WILL MITIGATE CONSEQUENCES
While it’s our goal to win every DWI case we have, it’s simply not possible for any attorney to win every time. If you are ultimately convicted of DWI, we will help you take every step possible to reduce the potential penalties, such as avoiding jail time, keeping you driving, reducing monetary costs, and more.
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