In recent years, some members of American law enforcement have developed a knack for talking motorists into vehicle searches that would otherwise not be justifiable under the Plain View, Probable Cause, or Reasonable Suspicion doctrines. Their goal is often to smell your breath or to go on a “fishing expedition” looking for illicit drugs, in order to seize assets. My advice is to NOT talk with law enforcement officers, and NEVER consent to any searches. To simplify this, I prepared the following lines for you to print out in large bold type, on an 8-1/2″x11″ sheet of paper, that you should carry in your car:
However, I do not consent to any searches whatsoever. (See: 4th Amendment and Fruit of The Poisonous Tree Doctrine, in Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. U.S.)
Do not detain or delay me when you lack Plain View, Probable Cause, or Reasonable Suspicion grounds. Let me know when I am free to go.
If you are pulled over for the ubiquitous “routine traffic stop” or roll into an INS inland checkpoint (now often up to 80 miles from the border), leave your windows up and simply hold this page up to your car window for the officer to read, and then do not say a word. If they ask you for your driver’s license and proof of insurance, then go ahead and provide them. (Just crack your window slightly to hand them out, if they are not willing to read them through the glass.)
If they issue you a traffic ticket, then sign it, and be on your way.
Again, there is no need for you to ever speak a word. If they persist in quizzing you, just keep pointing to the sheet of paper. If they lack Plain View, Probable Cause, or Reasonable Suspicion grounds for a search and if you do not consent, then any evidence that they might find in a subsequent unconstitutional search will not be admissible in court (under the Fruit of The Poisonous Tree Doctrine.)
Odds are, they will soon realize that these aren’t the droids they’re looking for, and say “You’re free to go.”
Addendum (on 29 January): One notable exception to the foregoing guidance is that if you are the holder of a CCW permit, some states require you to inform a law enforcement officer that you are carrying a gun immediately after you come into contact with them. And in many states CCW permit holders also give implied consent to be personally searched or have their vehicles searched, just because you have a permit. – JWR