You can be pulled over by the police for any number of reasons. For example, you may have been stopped due to a traffic infraction or possibly drunk driving. The police may ask to search your vehicle. Are they permitted to do so?
Vehicle searches and probable cause
Generally, the police can only search your vehicle if they have probable cause to believe a crime was committed. They cannot search your vehicle for an arbitrary reason. If they lack probable cause, they must obtain a search warrant to search your vehicle.
That being said, you do not have the same expectation of privacy in your vehicle that you would in your home. A warrantless search must be reasonable under the circumstances. For example, if evidence of a crime is in plain view, if public safety is at risk or if the police are in hot pursuit of you, the police may search your vehicle.
In general, if you permit the police to search your vehicle, the police have probable cause to believe a criminal act took place in your vehicle, the police need to search your vehicle for their own safety, and the search is related to your arrest, the police can search your vehicle.
Know your rights regarding police searches
It is important to understand your rights with regards to a police search of your vehicle. The police may have the authority to search your vehicle, but this authority is limited. The police cannot search your vehicle for an arbitrary reason. Ultimately, you can protect your rights by knowing when police can and cannot search your vehicle.