• Judge Michael Donio

Ask the Judge: Can police search glove box without a warrant?



Can police legally unlock and search my glove box without a warrant? I was pulled over for speeding and because I was sassy with the cop, he wanted to search my car. I refused to let him in my glove box as I had cash for Christmas shopping. Nothing was found in the rest of my car and the cop got exasperated and left me with a speeding ticket.


The Fourth (4th) Amendment gives you rights against unlawful search and seizure. If you were stopped for speeding and had trouble finding your credentials in a glove box, the officer did not have a right to go into your glove box and search for that. On the other hand, if the officer had probable cause or reasonable suspicion to believe that you had drugs, or something of that nature illegal in your car, then under certain circumstances for the safety of that officer the search would be allowed. However, simply because you got sassy with the cop, does not give him a right to search your car without a warrant under the circumstances you described. I can tell you that this area of the law of search and seizure in an automobile is highly fact specific and the law can turn one way or the other on a specific fact. Based on what you indicate, I believe the officer was correct in not pushing the issue of searching your glove box, and I am sure that your attitude may have had something to do with receiving the speeding ticket. Let me add that in the society we live in today, officers put their lives on the line every day they go out and stop a car. Therefore, no one should give any officer a hard time, especially if you are simply stopped for a speeding ticket. All you need to do is watch TV to see some horrific things that happen as a result of a mere automobile stop.


My neighbors have poker parties every Friday and Saturday night. Their guests always partially block my driveway. I tried talking to my neighbors and their guests. I go to work at midnight Thursday through Sunday. I have to interrupt their game and get somebody to move their car. I finally have had it. I had a car towed Saturday and went to work. My neighbor is now mad at me and wants me to pay the towing fee. Who is right here?


This is a situation where I don’t think you want to have bad blood going forward with your neighbor. On the other hand, you talked to your neighbor and the guests beforehand and explained the situation to them, so I think they had some fault here in continuing to block your driveway. When you say partially, I am not sure if that means you cannot get out of the driveway or if it is just more difficult. In any event, they should have the courtesy once you told them that knowing your work schedule that you need to leave, when you need to leave and not waste time. I am not sure how many times you discussed this with your neighbor and their guests, but I would think more than once would be sufficient. While I don’t know if I would have gone so far as having the car towed, you definitely, I believe, had a right to do so if you could not get out of your driveway after adequate notice. As far as paying the towing bill, that is something that should be worked out with you, your neighbor and the offending party. Try to resolve this now before it gets out of hand.


Judge Michael Donio served as a New Jersey State Superior Court Judge for 20 years before retiring on July 31, 2015. He now operates a legal consulting and mediation firm on the White Horse Pike. Donio can be reached by calling (609) 481-2919. Send your questions for his columns to askthejudge@hammontongazette.com.