During an Indiana traffic stop, the law enforcement officer who initiated the stop may ask if he or she may look around your vehicle. Depending on the circumstances, you may have the right to refuse the officer’s request to search your car, which may save you time and help you avoid unnecessary trouble. However, in some instances, the officer has the right to conduct the search even if you do not want it to take place.
According to FlexYourRights.org, a law enforcement officer who wants to search your car during a traffic stop without your permission needs to have something that counts as “probable cause.”
When there is probable cause for a search
An officer may not search your car without your permission simply because he or she wants to do so. Instead, the officer must have evidence or proof of illegal activity or wrongdoing to initiate the search without you first consenting to it. Say the officer sees stolen property in your backseat or smells marijuana coming from the car when you roll down the window. Under these circumstances, he or she may have probable cause to search the car even if you do not want him or her to do so.
When there is no probable cause for a search
Unless the law enforcement officer who stops you has your permission, a warrant or probable cause, you may refuse a request to look through your car. In this case, you may tell the officer you do not agree to have your vehicle searched and ask if you may leave.
Be sure to remain courteous and polite even if you say no to the officer’s request to look through your car.