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Does your freedom from warrantless search extend to rental cars?

by | Jun 6, 2018 | Criminal Defense

Unfortunately, far too many people in Pennsylvania and across the country are unaware of their right to deny police entry to their home or vehicle without a search warrant signed by a judge. Even if someone asks police to see a warrant, officers respond with questions like, “If you don’t have anything to hide, why don’t you just let us in?”

Allowing police to search your home or vehicle without a warrant sets a dangerous precedent, even if you have “nothing to hide.” But what about property that isn’t yours, but you have permission to use?

Ruling sticks up for Fourth Amendment rights

The U.S. Supreme Court stood up for those rights recently when it ruled unanimously that Pennsylvania State Troopers still needed a warrant or the driver’s consent to search a rental car where the driver was not listed on the rental agreement.

A state trooper pulled the man over for violating a traffic law and proceeded to search the car, arguing he did not need the driver’s permission because the rental contract was in another person’s name. Upon searching the car, the trooper allegedly found a large amount of heroin and arrested the man, leading to federal drug charges.

Lower courts rejected the man’s argument that the heroin could not serve as evidence in the case because police did not have permission to search the car. However, the Supreme Court justices wrote that the lower courts’ rulings “rests on too restrictive a view of the Fourth Amendment’s protections.”

Remember that you have rights

A case like this is a stark reminder that if police ask to search your premises, whether your home or your vehicle, you need to ask to see a warrant. Even if you are staying in someone else’s home or driving someone else’s car, your Fourth Amendment rights remain in place.

If the police do violate your Fourth Amendment rights, that is where choosing the right attorney comes into play. When talking with an attorney, find out if they take your constitutional rights seriously.