During a Wisconsin traffic stop, the law enforcement officer who pulls your car over may ask if he or she may look through it. Unless certain circumstances exist, you maintain the right to refuse the request to search your vehicle, so it pays to know when you do and do not have to let a vehicle search take place.
According to FlexYourRights.org, law enforcement officers generally have to possess a warrant if they want to conduct a search of the place you live. Yet, if they want to look through your car, they may be able to do so without a warrant as long as they have something that counts as “probable cause.”
When an officer has probable cause
To have probable cause to look through your car without your permission, the officer who stops you must have something that counts as evidence of proof that you engaged in wrongdoing. Simply suspecting you did so is not enough to warrant a vehicle search to which you do not consent. However, if the law enforcement officer who pulls you over sees or smells something illegal, for example, this may give him or her a valid reason to move forward with a search.
When an officer lacks probable cause
If the officer who wants to search your car does not have probable cause or a warrant, you do not have to allow the search to take place. If you decide to say no to the officer’s search request, do so in a polite manner and then ask him or her if you may leave the scene.
Whether you allow the vehicle search to take place or not, be sure to remain courteous during your interactions with law enforcement.