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Can Police Search My Car?

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Can Police Search My Car?

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Police and Vehicle Searches in Texas


At one time or another, many Texans may be pulled over by a police officer while driving. Whether it happens on a major highway or a secluded country road, this can be a nerve-wracking experience, even if the driver has nothing to hide. Even drivers who were simply speeding may get nervous when they hear the question “Do you mind if I take a look around in your car?


When this happens, it’s time to take a deep breath and stay calm. When it comes to vehicle searches in Texas, there are certain rules by which law enforcement must abide. Knowing more about these rules can help drivers do the right thing when they are asked to consent to a search of their vehicle.


Rule #1: Stay Calm


There are a few instances when police officers are allowed to search a vehicle:
  • When the driver gives consent
  • When the officer has probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime is in the car
  • When the officer believes a search is necessary to protect his or her safety
  • When the officer has arrested the driver and is searching for evidence
No matter what happens, it’s important to stay calm. When an officer approaches a vehicle, they have no idea what might happen. Be respectful, polite and answer the officer’s question in a calm tone. Getting angry, yelling or resisting the officer will only make things worse.


If the officer wants to search the vehicle, they may ask for the driver’s consent. Of course, the driver can agree to the search but this isn’t required. The driver is allowed to refuse this request but it’s important to do so in the right way.


Rule #2: Refuse the Search Properly


If a driver does not want their car to be searched, they can refuse the officer’s search request. To do this, the driver should calmly say “I do not consent to a search of my vehicle.” It’s important to comply with the officer’s orders. For example, if the officer asks the driver to step out of the vehicle, it’s a good idea to do so but that doesn’t mean the driver has to give consent to a search. The officer may frisk the driver if they believe that weapons may be present but this does not automatically give them the power to conduct a full search.


If the officer asks to search the car again, the driver should calmly repeat the refusal. However, they should promptly present their driver’s license and insurance information when asked. Simply pulling someone over for a traffic violation is not probable cause to conduct a police search.


Rule #3: Comply With Mandatory Searches


In some cases, officers don’t need the driver’s consent to conduct a search. For example, if the officer has probable cause, the officer can conduct a search if they wish. Probable cause could include detecting the smell of drugs or noticing fresh blood on the passenger’s seat.


The officer also does not need consent for a search if they have a reasonable suspicion that their safety is threatened. In these cases, they can legally search the car for weapons to protect their own safety.


If the officer places the driver under arrest, they are allowed to search the vehicle for evidence related to the arrest. For example, if an officer smells marijuana in a person’s car, they can place that person under arrest and then search the car for drugs.


If a driver finds themselves in a situation where they can’t refuse a search, they should stay calm and comply with the officer’s orders. Arguing, shouting or resisting arrest is a good way to get hit with a Taser and additional criminal charges. If placed under arrest, the driver should politely request a lawyer and then refuse to answer any questions without a lawyer present.


Additional Info


If a police officer conducts an illegal search, the defendant can hire a lawyer to use this information in court. If a person is charged with a crime based on illegally gathered evidence, a defense attorney may argue that the charges must be thrown out of court.


When being searched or placed under arrest, it’s important to say only what is necessary. Admissions of guilt or information about a crime can be used against a defendant in court. It’s best to keep quiet, be respectful and ask to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.

Have the police searched your car illegally? Don’t go through it alone. Call The Law Office of Greg Tsioros at 832-752-5972 and get the help you need.

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