Can the Police Search Your Vehicle in Arizona?

arizona vehicle search laws

Can the Police Search Your Vehicle in Arizona?

In Arizona, the law states that the police need to have a reason to search your vehicle. They can’t pull you over and arbitrarily search your car. Probable cause is required. Probable cause means that the officer has a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed or intending to be committed. 


What would give an officer probable cause under the law to search your vehicle in Arizona?

The following conditions would give an officer probable cause to search your vehicle:

  • Evidence of a crime (such as a DUI)
  • A search warrant
  • An arrest
  • Consent from the driver

In some cases the officer may also have a right to search your vehicle if he or she believes it’s necessary for his/her own protection. However, your fourth amendment right protects you from unreasonable searches by the government. If you do get pulled over for a DUI in Arizona, you should know your rights. Read about them here


What about other reasons for a vehicle search in Arizona? 

Do odors count as probable cause? For example, if the odor of marijuana is present in a vehicle after someone is pulled over, does this provide cause for a warrantless search? In most cases, yes. 

In the case of the State of Arizona v. Cheatham, police officers pulled over a vehicle that had unlawful window tinting. While talking to the defendant, they smelled burnt marijuana. They searched the vehicle and the defendant was charged with possession. Later, the defendant tried to suppress the evidence of possession by filing a motion saying that the police unlawfully searched his vehicle. 

The court denied the motion. It later went to the court of appeals and the outcome was the same: the odor of marijuana was found to be sufficient for the police to establish probable cause.  


Rely on an expert for help!

Todd Coolidge is a Certified Criminal Law Specialist who handles challenging cases throughout Maricopa County and the rest of Arizona. He helps those with cases of DUIs, drug offenses, misdemeanors, felonies, assault, and more

When you need it, you should have an experienced professional on your side. Contact the office of Coolidge Law Firm for help.


Photo by Drew Stephens from Flickr