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Can a cop pull me over, search me and my vehicle just for being "suspicious"?
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Can a cop pull me over, search me and my vehicle just for being "suspicious"?

I was pulled over the other day when I was leaving work because I was "suspicious" plus my registration tags had expired.so I showed my insurance, Drivers License, etc. and of course I'm clean, no suspensions or warrants.....so the cop then orders me out of the vehicle, makes me spread my legs and frisks me from head to toe, then he makes me sit down 20 feet away by a tree while he searches my car. He asked if I had any problems with it, I said No, just because I know I didn't have any drugs or anything plus I am scared of the cops.....so anyways, he takes 20 minutes to search it through, makes everything a mess, because of him I'm also late back to work....once he's done, he thanks me for my cooperation and lets me go....does he have the right to do this? I don't hate him or anything, I just feel humiliated that he had to do this for no reason...I have never had problems with the law or anything, all this because he said I was driving "suspiciously" whatever thats means!?!?!


Johnny Boy
I have actually talked to a cop about this. He told me that they are actually not allowed to search your car if you say no. That's why they have to ask. If you give them permission than they will. If you say no, they can't because they don't have a warrant. It's is your right to say no to them. It's in the constitution. The cop said that yes they will ask if they think that you are suspicous. If a cop does search your car and you said no and they didn't find anything in your car, you can take it to court and sue the cop for doing that. People have done it before. It's your right of privacy. Don't let them fool you. They can however look in your windows with a flashlight if you are in your car. The only time they can't do anything is if you are out of your car.

There is a case recoginized by the US Supreme Court, Carroll v. United States, also known as The Carroll Doctrine.

It states you have a lesser expectation of privacy in your car, and all the police need is a reasonable suspicion to search. You do not need a warrant to search a car. If you have enough for a warrant, you have enough to satisfy the requirements of the Carroll Doctrine.

Expired registration is a valid reason to stop you, but you don't say what his reason was for searching. What exactly was "suspicious"? If it was something reasonable, he was justified. If not, he should not have searched, except that you did tell him you didn't have a problem with it.

If you would have told him you did not consent to the search, it would have worked in your favor had he found something illegal.

El Scott
The stop is valid because your tag is expired. You don't say why he thought you were suspicious but it is moot since he had a valid traffic violation (which is probable cause) to stop you on. All an officer needs to make a traffic stop is reasonable suspicion which is a lower standard then probable cause.

The search was also valid because you consented to it. The officer asked you if you had a problem with the search and you told him you didn't. That constitutes a valid consent search.

So the stop was valid and the search is valid. I can stop any car for a valid reason and ask for consent to search. I don't have to have a specific reason to ask for consent, I can just ask.

You should have asked him to write you a warning ticket or something so you could show your boss you got stopped.

By the way Mr. Knowitall posted something about Ronald Reagan being the reason why Police can search you and pat you down because you are suspicious. He is all wet. Terry v. Ohio is the Supreme Court Case that developed 'reasonable suspicion'. This case determined that officers can approach and question (and pat down) people for being suspicious. This case was in 1968 which is way before Reagan took office.
Here is a link:

you're fully within your rights to deny the officer the right to search your car, but since you did allow him to search, you really have no leg to stand on.

Can he do this? Yes. You told him so when he asked to search your car. Next time say No. Unless the officer has probable cause the search is illegal.

If you agree to it, yes.......and your not the brightest bulb on the tree...........

You were good to go till you said that he could search your ride...

if he had a reason to look, he won't ask. You gave him free rein to toss your stuff and embarrass you.

Yes, he can pull you over if he has "reasonable suspicion". However, there's got to be some kind of probable cause, like they see something (drug baggies, smell of pot, etc.).
Check w/a criminal lawyer.
I'm a lawyer but don't practice criminal law so take this information as just that information and not advice.

You've got two really good answers from trooper316 and El Scott. Go with one of them, and ignore most of the others. Many of them are just plain wrong or based on ignorance.

Not just for being suspicious, no.

You did, however, have expired tags. That was probable cause to pull you over.

He ASKED for permission to search your car. You could have said no. Then he would have needed more than "driving suspiciously" to search it against your will.

I think they can from what my attorney told me the cop said i looked at him suspicous but who to say i might have thought he was cute or really ugly

Magic Matt
Same thing happened to me when I was your age, stop by Police 4 or 5 times in one year, and frisked for being "suspicious"! It was LA, cops are crazy in that town, left there and never happened again, of course I just show my badge now, but……

marian g
Unfortunately you don't say what country you are from. Canadian law prohibits the search of any vehicle without reason. Now I understand in the US when you told the cop you had no problem with his searching your car, you in fact gave him permission. Why would you be scared of the "Cops" Innocent people are not scared of the cops!

azrim h
Yes he can.

Yes, this happens all the time. Probable cause is at the discretion of the police officer. Even if they are unjust, it is almost impossible to prove, they can always make up some "righteous" excuse for their action.

People usually don't let their registration lapse for no reason. An expired registration is a pretty good indicator that a car might be stolen. Therefore, I would say he was justified in searching.

The expired tags didn't help, let's face it. But you do -not- "have" to allow a police man into your car unless there is something in "plain view" that warrants the search, or he has a warrant, or you give him permission to search. Look it up on the ACLU web site.
It didn't "help" that you are black, wearing a baseball cap on backwards either. Racism is an unfortunate fact of life.

chad k
why would you say no, when he asks if you have a problem with it? never let a cop search anything without a warrant. it violates your god given constitutionally protected rights against illegal search and seizure. unfortunately cops all over america now are doing that. they know that nobody knows the constitution and bill of rights. we are living in a police state now. here's to the revolution!

Cops really can get away with alot. esspecially if they have an excuse for pulling you over (like expired tags). I think he was unfair, but you have to see through a cops eyes. They deal with alot of crap day in and out. Their life is in danger day after day to keep us safe and cruddy people off the street. If you were a cop, would think someone clean cut, dressed in a suit or dress clothes, walking straight up, with a smile on their face was suspicious, or the teenager with baggy close, a mean face, and swaying as they walk. A cops job is to search for suspecious people and check them out. (not saying this is you). If you notice the people who complain about cops bothering them the most are the people who are up to no good. I am sick of hearing about racial profiling too because it is not a police officers fault that the majority of people commiting crime are african american. Anyway, If that happen to me, yes, I would be a little bothered by it, but I would have to remind myself that this is the guy I would call if I were in trouble and he is just doing his job to keep people off the street that are criminals. (also if you do denie a cop to search your vehicle he can make you wait until he gets his cheif officer, or whoever, to come out with a warrant, seen it on cops. So you saved yourself the trouble)

yes, they have every right to do it, even though it's not very fair, if you ask me.
they can search your car whenever they want to and they'll ask you if they can do it first, but even if you say no, they can still do it.
actually, if you say no, it will make them want to search it more because they think you're hiding something.

4 strings
Yeppers,, Homie,,,Be prepared!!

Better hide it real well.........

Well maybe he thinks you were wobbling when you were driving or something. Or he has it in for you. I think you should ask him (or ask him at the police station later) what was the reason that made him "suspicious" in the first place? If he has no reason... I think he has no right. If you got fired from work.. and he had no reason... He should repay that... I think.

Lisa T
Well the fact that your registration tags had expired may give them cause to believe that you were behaving suspiciously.
You may have done something when driving without realising. Perhaps you were tired and just lost concentration momentarily. He may have run a check on the plates and it came back as tags expired. For all he knows you may have stolen the vehicle. He is not a mind reader. It is his job to investigate.

Where I come from if your registration tags have expired we get a fine of over $500. We are then not allowed to drive the vehicle and are given so many days to register it. On top of that we get three demerit points - once you have 12 demerit points we lose our licence. This happened to friends of ours. They forgot to post the payment. They were returning home from visiting a very sick relative with their three children in the car and it was like midnight. They were given the choice to leave their car on the side of the road, have it towed back to their residence or renew the tags over the phone with credit card. The police put a big sticker saying not to be driven across the windscreen. They then had to ring a relative to come and get them so they could get home. It ended up being a very expensive exercise and embarrassing.

Also, where I live - a police officer has the right to ask someone their name, address, date of birth etc without needing a reason. However, if there is anything that arouses suspicion that a person may be engaged in criminal behaviour or that he/she has been involved in a crime the Police have the right to search the individual, their vehicle, property and to question them

Really the reason you were late for work is because you were driving a car with expired tags. Also in hindsight it was no reason, but the police officer did not know that at the time. People do not go around with a big sign that says I have been in trouble with the police before so I am a suspicious person as an indicator to the police to say it is okay to question that person. Also people do not look good or bad. It is just your actions, which may be quite innocent to you, but the police dont know until they investigate. They dont know you or your history. They dont know that when you are scared you shuffle or fidget and therefore may look suspicious. The other thing is, getting pulled over by the police can be nerve wracking. Sometimes the way we behave when nervous or upset can come across as acting in a suspicious manner. You said you are scared of the cops - and being scared can make us look suspicious. Unfortunately, they have the difficult job of investigating things and making decisions based on limited information. It is difficult.

It must have been quite embarrassing. I would have been beside myself.

Mr. Knowitall
It's gotten to be a sort of gray area. The Bill of Rights makes it clear that you can't be stopped or searched except with 'probable cause'.

But in the real world, cops have gotten more and more power over the last few years. Before Reagan was president a cop couldn't stop you if you were just walking down the street and ask to see your ID just because he thought you looked 'suspicious'. Now cops are able to do that, to frisk you, to search your car, etc., without having to show probable cause.

All of these new police powers come from decisions made by the Supreme Court in the last 25 years or so. Of the 9 justices on the Supreme Court, two were chosen by Reagan, two by the first president Bush and two by this president Bush. All of these Republican presidents promised to pick judges that would make abortion illegal. But the people they picked did not all turn out to be pro-choice. If one thing can be said about ALL the Supreme Court justices picked by Reagan and the Bushes, it is that they ALL seemed to believe in more police power, more power for prosecutors in trials and less for defenders and judges.

And that is basicaly why a cop can just stop you for no apparent reason and search your car.

Yes, the expired tags gave him a reason. They are allowed to do that if something is not right.

They probably do.. but that's still ridiculous. Especially that he made you sit by a tree that far away.

Yi H
No, because I think they need a warrant. However, you should cooperate because what they could do is make you wait even longer while they get a warrant.

Johnny B
Yes he has every right. In fact they can even take to to the police station and keep you for question for much longer periods of time. And now with the terrorism laws people have even less rights.

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