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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2016

    Default Can the Police Try to Open Your Car Door

    My question involves civil rights in the State of: PA
    I work with kids in their homes as a behavior analyst. I wss between clients and got to my next client 1/2 hour early so i decided to pull over on a regular street (stores on both side of street. No paid parking. No "no parking" signs) and read a book while I waited. While reading there is a tap on my window. I look up and there are 2 officers, one on drivers sude, one on passenger. The one on the drivers side asked for my license and registration, which i provided. Then he askef what i was doing sitting there and i replied that i was reading a book while waiting to go to a client. He asked "what kind of client?" And i began to respond that i worked with kids, was 30 min early, etc, and while i was responding he tried opening my car door but it was locked. So i rolled down my window a little more, but didnt say anything about him trying to open the door. He proceeded to grill me. What kind of clients, what street, who i work for, where im from, why i haveva client 45 min from my house (normal in this job), what and why im reading. It was like he was trying to catch me in a lie. My purse was open next to me and i had a prescription in it. And he asked "whats the scrip?" And i replied "scrip?" And he said "your prescription, is it anything good?" And i said it was my thyroid meds. So after all of this he gives me my ID and registration, but doesjt say why they approached my car. It was an odd situation so i asked "does it look like im doimg something wrong? Im just curious why you came up to my car." He just responded "its just a bad area ma'am."
    The whole situation was weird, but my guess is that i had parked in a place where drug dealing happens or something. I dont care much that they approached the car, even if it was odd, because they must have had some reason or suspicion i assume. But the event of which i am unsure of the legality is that within the first minute, before he could even have had time to assess if i was drunk or high or anything, he tried to open my door. As far as im aware, this would only be appropriate if he were going to search it (not even time yet to ask to do that) or arrest me (for reading a book?) So i feel like this had to be illegal. The second event, though i doubt it was illegal and though it still felt invasive, was that he asked what my prescription was for. It had a label. I wasnt hiding it. I don't see why he had the right to ask, though i would guess legally he did. As far as the questioning, i know he was within his rights, but he was being a little ridiculous. I just felt those details were important to include to convey they strangeness of it all. So what is the verdict?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2013

    Default Re: Police Officer Opening Car Door

    The reason for the contact was that an occupied vehicle sitting at a curb for an extended period of time is a 10-37 (suspicious vehicle). Either somebody called it in or you caught the eye of the police while they patrolled the area. The in depth interview was a little over the top but not illegal.

    As for the attempt to open your car door, there is nothing illegal about the attempt itself.

    Had he actually been successful in opening your door it could have constituted an illegal search unless some of the exceptions apply.

    Here are some resources:

    There's a lot more that can be found online. It's a complicated issue and there are a variety of circumstances leading up to the moment he put his hand on the door handle that could have resulted in a legal or illegal search.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006

    Default Re: Police Officer Opening Car Door

    You might research his statement about it being "a bad area". If it is, I wouldn't get too worked up about what happened. Such area can make a vehicle that isn't suspicious in most areas seem suspicious. The questioning does not sound unusual for somebody sitting in "a bad area".

    In today's world the cops often have to walk a fine line between being too agressive in their investigations and too lax to be effective. "The area" can make a huge difference in how they investigate any given situation.

    Btw; you might pay attention to where you do sit in your car. There are some areas where what you did makes you a prime target for criminals in the area. Getting robbed or car jacked would not be surprising in some areas.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    New Jersey

    Default Re: Police Officer Opening Car Door

    If you don't roll your window all the way down at a traffic stop, the officer should be able to open your car door so he can hear you... What's so hard about rolling your window down?
    I'm not a lawyer, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.......

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2005

    Default Re: Police Officer Opening Car Door

    I don't open the door, I merely direct them to step out. That way I get to see what's immediately inside AND I can get them out of the car without having to play tug of war with a door.
    Retired Cal Cop Sergeant & Teacher

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ...

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