Can the police legally search a parked vehicle if the driver/owner was not present?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can the police legally search a parked vehicle if the driver/owner was not present?

A family members vehicle was parked in a residential
area. They were in the house but there were three
passengers in the vehicle. Two police officers
approached the vehicle, I’m not sure of their initial
reason for approaching, but upon their arrival they
allegedly witnessed the passengers smoking
marijuana. Does this give them probable cause to
search the vehicle?

Asked on July 18, 2016 under Criminal Law, Michigan


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Probable cause is a reasonable belief that criminal activity is afoot which was clearly established when the police saw the passengers smoking marijuana. This provided probable cause to search the vehicle.
No search warrant is needed to search a vehicle because by the time the police obtain a warrant and return to the scene, the vehicle and contraband it may contain would be gone.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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