I'm leaning on the side of "yes" they should have had either a warrant or permission. A more experienced and knowledgeable attorney is likely to come along soon and provide better details.
The above is not intended to be legal advice, but may be used for general information. Please contact an attorney for specific help tailored to your needs. www.figgardenlaw.com
Generally, all searches require a warrant. There are, however, several notable exceptions to that general rule. The "automobile" exception to the warrant requirement recognizes that they are inherently mobile, and that the owner may move it anywhere while the police go get a warrant. They also may conduct a search where an illicit item is in "plain sight" (e.g. visible through a transparent window). Further, if the car WAS impounded, the police may conduct an "inventory" of the car, pursuant to standard operating procedures.
The answer to your question is "maybe." All Fourth Amendment questions are fact-intensive, and Fourth Amendment jurisprudence is as rich as it is complicated. I highly recommend engaging a private attorney ASAP. If you cannot afford a private attorney, apply for representation through the Office of the Public Defender.
Whether or not the police needed a warrant for the second search of the car is somewhat immaterial if no criminal charges against you arose from anything found in the second search. Generally speaking, an illegal search is defense used to suppress illegally obtained evidence in a criminal case. If there were no criminal charges against you that arose from the presumably illegal search, then there is essentially nothing to challenge in terms of the admissibility of evidence. For further guidance on this matter, please consider consulting with a private attorney about the specific facts of the situation. Pleas e keep in mind that many attorneys offer free consultations and are not as expensive to hire as many folks believe.
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If the prosecution seeks to use evidence against you, you might challenge whether agents seized it illegally. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you evaluate the prosecution's case, any defenses that you might have, and any plea offer that might be made, so that you can decide whether to go to trial. Consider seeking a confidential consultation.
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