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Is it Legal for the Police to Search Your Car?

Law enforcement officials have the right to search your vehicle with a warrant or if they have probable cause to believe it contains evidence of criminal activity.

There is a sinking feeling that comes with seeing blue lights flashing behind you as you are traveling down the road in your car. While it is important to cooperate with police officers during these stops, you need to be aware that discoveries made during a search of your vehicle or person can lead to criminal charges. As experienced Texas criminal defense lawyers, we want you to be aware of your rights so you can protect yourself in these situations. The following highlights four circumstances under which law enforcement may be justified in searching your vehicle.

Four Situations in Which the Police can Search Your Vehicle

Your rights when it comes to illegal searches and seizures are protected in Texas and throughout the U.S. Courts under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. However, this only protects you against unreasonable searches that are not allowed by law. The following are four situations in which the police may legally conduct a search:

1. If Police Have a Search Warrant

Under the Texas Criminal Code, a search warrant is a written order by a judge which gives a law enforcement official the authority to search your home, person, or vehicle. By law, warrants should only be issued when there are significant facts to indicate a crime has occurred and that a search is likely to produce evidence in the case.

2. If Police Have Probable Cause

Without a search warrant, police may search your vehicle if they have probable cause to suspect criminal activity. An example of this would be seeing a gun, or drug paraphernalia on your seat, or smelling alcohol or marijuana in the vehicle.

3. If Your Vehicle is Impounded

If your vehicle is impounded as the result of a parking violation, the police generally have the right to conduct an inventory search. If the impound occurred due to a traffic violation, such as driving under the influence or driving without a license, this could justify probable cause.

4. If They Have Your Consent

If you are pulled over during a traffic stop, the police may ask if you consent to a search of your vehicle. In this situation, it is important to realize that you do have the right to say no. The Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) advises stating your refusal in a polite, non-confrontation manner, while complying with requests to provide driver and vehicle identification documents.

Our Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers are Here to Help

When facing any type of criminal charges, it is important to have an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer on your side to review the evidence against you and the procedures that were followed. Reach out and contact Scott M. Brown & Associates to request a consultation in our Angleton, Pearland, or Houston office to discuss your case and how we can help you.

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