Detroit, MI asked in Civil Rights, Constitutional Law and Criminal Law for Michigan

Q: In Michigan, do police officers have authority to search a locked container in the trunk of my vehicle that son drives?

Suppose my 17/18 year old son is pulled over by a police officer and the officer suspects use/possession of THC or nicotine and asks to search the vehicle. Keep in mind there is a locked container in the trunk of the vehicle.

Scenario 1: my son denies permission for a search. Does the officer have the authority to search the vehicle and all contents, including locked containers. Also what if a key is not available to open said locked container.

Scenario 2: There is no probable cause to search the vehicle, but my son consents to a requested search anyhow. Does the officer have authority to search locked containers within the vehicle? Again, what if the key is not available to open said locked container.

I’m both scenarios, the locked container contains THC and Nicotine products.

1 Lawyer Answer
Brent T. Geers
Brent T. Geers
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: A proper search is premised on either a warrant exception (e.g., for vehicles, that is usually "plain view"), a warrant with probable cause, or consent. The police are always free to ask for consent to search.

In both your scenarios, I could see the police confiscating the box; I also see avenues to suppress it. Just depends on exact facts. Remember, the police know what they can and cannot do; they also know what facts are necessary to justify their search.

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