New Castle, VA asked in Criminal Law for Virginia

Q: I was wondering if a cop is allowed to search a locked container, glove box, and trunk if I was pulled over. I’m in VA.

I was just curious as to if a cop can search glove box, a bag that’s locked, or a container that is also locked without a warrant if I was to be pulled over in a traffic stop. And/or if for some reason they have probable cause to search the vehicle at all would they then be able to search the glove box and/or anything if it was locked? I’m located in Virginia in the Roanoke area.

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1 Lawyer Answer
David G. Parker
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  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Richmond, VA
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: The law has allowed warrantless searches of automobiles since the 1920s, as long as probable cause exists to justify the search. The locked status of the containers or compartments of the vehicle shouldn't matter if there's probable cause to justify the search. The inability to readily access the contents of a container or compartment can be helpful to an accused in other contexts (e.g. on questions of actual possession or constructive possession of whatever is found inside) but it generally won't prevent law enforcement from having the ability to search those spaces if there's justification.

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