Today’s viewer question is, can cops make me open a locked glove compartment?

Locked Glove Compartment & The 4th Amendment

Hi, I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz,

Today we are going to answer a viewer’s question from Wilson in Dover, Delaware. Wilson wrote to me and said, “can cops make me open a locked glove compartment?” The answer is, cops cannot force you to do it. They are not going to force you to do it. If you are stopped and they want to get into your locked glove compartment, they are going to take your keys and they are going to unlock it and search what is in the glove compartment. So, as a practical matter, I do not think you are going to be forced to open your locked glove compartment.

Is it a violation of your fourth amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures?

I would say that largely depends on the facts of the case. You know, if you have a case where the police have you on video robbing a bank with a gun and in the video, they can see that you ran out to your car, placed the gun and the money in the glove compartment and locked it, then you hopped in the driver’s seat and sped away, I would say that there is a pretty good basis either for them to stop you and open the glove compartment, or to stop you and get a search warrant and get that glove compartment opened. So, it depends on the facts of the circumstances. I think that what you should know, as an American citizen, is that you do have a fourth amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

There is the police now (siren noises are heard in the video). I do not know if you can hear that. They are probably coming to search for my glove compartment…

If you are asked to consent to a search of your vehicle, a search of your glove compartment, or a search of your home, you do not have to give consent to a search. You have a right as an American citizen to be secure in your places, in your home, in your bedroom, and in your car. So you have a right to refuse to consent to the search. If the police have a good reason to search whatever it is, your car, or your home; if they have a good reason, they can apply to a judge of the court and get a warrant, then use the warrant to justify the search. That is how it should be, it should not be the police officers making the decision that they are just going to go into people’s homes, their locked glove compartment, or what have you, on their own. It should be something that is supervised by a law-trained judge.

So, I would say it depends on the circumstances if they can go into your locked compartment, but as a practical matter, as an attorney, I would never consent to search of my car or home. I would suggest to you, as an American citizen, that you should never consent to that sort of a search either.

Thanks for watching! I hope this answers the question. Keep watching. If you have a question for me about the law or a procedure under the law, feel free to send me an e-mail below.