Ask a Cop: Can I refuse a consent to search?

Sgt. Chris Yagelski

Q: I was pulled over by a police officer and asked if I would consent to have my car searched. I did not have anything to hide so I did give him permission, but what does “consent to search” really mean? Could I have just said, “No?”

A: Of course, you can say, “No.” If the police ask your permission to search your home, purse, vehicle or other property, and you freely consent, their warrantless search automatically becomes reasonable and therefore legal. Consequently, whatever an officer finds that is criminal during a consent search can be used against the person.

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