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Plain Sight and Full Search: Are There Different Levels of Search?

Interviewer: Are there different levels of search?  I’ve heard there’s something called plain sight versus a full search?

Ben Doscher: Yes.  Plain sight applies if they see an item, such as a gun on the seat next to you, then that’s in plain sight, but it is a different scenario if it’s in the glove compartment.

Interviewer: If you have marijuana pipe on the floor or on the seat or a gun or something like that or an open beer, that’s considered in plain sight and they don’t even need to search?

Ben Doscher: No. then they do not need a search warrant.

Items Not in Plain Sight Require a Search Warrant in Order to Be Considered Incriminating Evidence

Interviewer: But they do need a warrant if an item is inside a trunk or a glove box or under the seat?

Ben Doscher: Yes, then they need a search warrant.  If you can’t get to it, then they’re in no danger from it and they can’t just see it, so they need a warrant to open it up.

How Should You Respond if Police Officers Ask to Search Your Car?

Interviewer: What happens if the police ask you to search your car?  What should you say and how do you do it the right where you politely refuse?

Ben Doscher: It depends on the circumstances.  If you don’t have anything hide, then you can definitely let them do it.  If you do have something to hide and you don’t think they have any reason to get the warrant, then you say no. You should always say no anyway if you do have something to hide because at least if they get the warrant, it can still be fought later in court.

If You Refuse to Allow Police to Conduct a Search, It Will Not Be Considered Resisting Arrest or Obstructing Justice

Interviewer: Should you just say no you’re not searching my vehicle, or do you have to make the refusal more polite?  What if people are afraid or “resisting arrest” or obstructing justice?  Does it matter how they say it?

Ben Doscher: It’s not resisting arrest if you’re not allowing them to search your vehicle.

Interviewer: I guess the best way would be to say, “Officer, I politely decline.  I don’t wish you to search my vehicle.”

Ben Doscher: Yes, it is always better to remain polite in your interactions with the police.

Interviewer: What other common evidence do you argue to suppress and how does it happen?