In late July, two men in Texas were arrested after police discovered 56 pounds of marijuana and 38 pounds of liquid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the part of marijuana that gets you high) in their car. According to police, a state trooper saw the vehicle drive on an improved shoulder and stopped it for the offense. He then asked the driver to step out of the vehicle and sit in the patrol car. As the driver moved, the police officer noticed several suspicious activities.
He asked for consent to search the vehicle, which the driver deferred to his passenger. The passenger said no. The officer called for a K-9 unit, which alerted positive for narcotics.
During the search, several bags of marijuana and THC were discovered inside the car’s factory voids. The two were then arrested.
Do I Have to Consent to a Search of My Vehicle in Texas?
Generally, police need a warrant to search your property. Cars are somewhat of an exception because cars are mobile and often gone before a police officer can execute a warrant. Additionally, some argue that since cars are on public streets, your expectation of privacy is reduced.
Police can search your car:
- With a warrant based on probable cause and approved by a judge
- If they believe there is probable cause that the car contains evidence of illegal activity (officer smells marijuana, for example)
- If a person has been arrested, is unsecured and within reach of the passenger compartment.
- If it is reasonable to believe evidence may be found in the car related to the arrest
- If the officer believes the car contains weapons and the driver may attempt to access them
- If a person says yes – you do not have to consent and police cannot intimidate or harass you into consenting (if they do, you are legally allowed to record it).
- After a car is lawfully impounded
Police may illegally search your car under circumstances other than those listed above. An attorney can help you fight these illegal searches and prevent improperly seized evidence from being used against you.