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Do police officers have the right to search water bottles?

Personal drinking containers are great for taking your water or other nonalcoholic beverage out with you. The widespread use of these containers in California also helps the environment by reducing plastic waste. While they may certainly be used to conceal alcohol, most people use them as they were intended to be used as a take-along container for soft beverages or water.

Police officers have a duty to serve and protect the public. This gives them certain rights when they believe a person is breaking the law. One of these rights is the authority to search for concealed alcohol or other prohibited substances. To answer the question specifically, yes, the police may search your container but only under certain conditions.

If you are out in a public park or at the beach, a police officer may ask to search your water bottle or your cooler. As always, he or she will need to have a reasonable suspicion that you are engaging in illegal activities. If the officer demands that you open the container for a search, you can choose to decline this demand. The search may go forward anyway but if you have not given your consent, any evidence the officer obtains might be inadmissible in court.

At public events such as concerts or sporting activities, your consent for a search may be implied simply by your presence. This means a police officer can search your containers if he or she believes you are drunk or involved in criminal activity. Officers also have the right to search your personal effects if you are under arrest for a crime.

A good practice is to decline an officer's request or demand to search your drinking container, but it is important to do so politely and respectfully. Not giving your consent may protect you from a possible conviction, at least until you have a chance to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "Can Police Search My Water Bottle?," Christopher Coble, accessed Feb. 16, 2018

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