Car Search Denial?


Last night I had an interesting conundrum. At 1am my 17 year-old son called with the the worst sort of opening you want to hear from your child: “Dad, there’s a problem. You need to come get me from the police.”

Police Car with beacons on.So what was the situation? My son—who’s been driving a year—was out with two friends and they decided to go hang out behind the first school they all went to and eat some food they got around the corner.

Trust me, I know my child. There were no drugs involved. My son is a bit obsessive when it comes to taking care of his diet and has never shown even the slightest hint of interest in drugs or alcohol. However, just after they got there a local energy company truck showed up to do some scheduled repairs on a downed telephone pole.

The group—not knowing what was up—decided to just move away and head back to his car. Now, in the wake of Sandy Hook and a scare in our own township just a couple days ago, everyone’s on edge. The guy driving the truck immediately called the police and reported “suspicious kids” at the school.

Several police cards immediately descended on them. Each parent got a call saying we needed to pick up our kids.

When I got there the police officer started the conversation by saying, “Everything’s okay. Your son didn’t do anything wrong.” He then said I had to sign a release form acknowledging that I was picking up my son from the police. He then asked if I would submit to having the car searched as it’s in my name. He presented a form asking for my approval.

I know my township well. The police are exceptional and extremely helpful and supportive. They really are amazing. I had no reason to question them so before signing the form I said, “I’m going to sign this but just so I know, what would happen if I didn’t sign it?” He said that they’d immediately impound the car and it would take up to 10 days to get a warrant at which time—after the search—I could get the car back but I’d also have to pay for towing.

What? So my only option is to submit to an immediate search even though the officer stated my son did nothing wrong or have the car towed away and incur the hassle and costs as a result? This just doesn’t seem right.

Of course the officer found absolutely nothing in the car and we returned home without further incident but the interaction still bugs me. Is this normal? Should I have stood my ground and told the officers they couldn’t search the car?

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  1. Wayne MacDonald on

    Hello. I am a former P.O. When we towed a car incident to an arrest, investigation or for traffic reasons, an inventory search was conducted and all items found were documented and listed in the report. This was to protect the owner and (police from accusations of theft).

    • Rich Heimlich on

      In this case the car wasn’t towed. They threatened to tow it if I didn’t allow them to search it. I still would like to know why, when they told me he’d done nothing wrong, they’d insist on searching it.

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