Can Police Search Private Property without Permission in Texas?

Can police search private property without permission in Texas? Texas search and seizure laws restrict police officers’ power to search and seize people and their property. The laws are based largely on the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. State law applies well.

Defendants can make a request to suppress evidence if police violate their legal authority. The court has the authority to enforce the exclusionary rule. Evidence discovered as a result of the breach is not admissible in court.

Unreasonable searches and seizures are forbidden under the Fourth Amendment. It applies to both federal and state authorities. Texas law also protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures. The State of Texas enacted its own equivalent of the Fourth Amendment. It has its own exclusionary rule as well. It forbids unlawful searches conducted by private people as well as those conducted by law enforcement.

When law enforcement in Texas oversteps its authority and asserts the right to search without permission, it can be difficult to know what to do. If you have any questions concerning your Fourth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution, call Houston criminal defense attorney Scott M. Brown & Associates to give you the answers. Call them now to schedule an appointment!

Reasonable Suspicion vs. Probable Cause

Reasonable suspicion should not be confused with probable cause. The difference between probable cause and reasonable suspicion has been at the center of countless Supreme Court rulings, but the most basic distinction is:

  • When the likelihood of criminal wrongdoing is evident to a trained police officer, reasonable suspicion exists. Reasonable suspicion is founded on an inclination, as opposed to evidence.
  • When the likelihood of criminal activity is evident to any reasonable person, there is probable cause. Law enforcement must have probable cause before they can make an arrest. Probable cause is critical because it discourages cops from making arrests based on a hunch or a gut feeling. Therefore, they must find solid evidence of a crime in order to get a warrant and conduct an investigation.

Example of Reasonable Suspicion

A police officer is seated at his station when he looks at the nearby park. He observes a guy looking about as if he is waiting for somebody. Then another guy approaches him, and they seem to converse briefly before shaking hands. The second guy goes away, leaving the first guy alone. Not five minutes later, another person approaches the individual and starts a conversation with him. Both shake hands, but the newcomer’s body angle does not conceal the money he trades before the handshake.

The police officer has a reasonable suspicion that a narcotics sale is taking place at this point. While the police cannot arrest the guy in the park, they could investigate him by asking for his name and checking his criminal record.

Example of a Probable Cause

A police officer is monitoring Main Street when he notices a man racing down the street with a huge duffle bag. While running, the person trips and drops the duffle bag, which splits apart to show many things ranging from watches to various vintage jewelry pieces. Suddenly, the police receive a radio call reporting that a nearby pawn shop has been robbed.

During this point, the police officer can confidently state that the guy running away from the shop’s direction with a duffle bag filled with stolen items is most likely the culprit. Because the police have probable cause, the arrest can be carried out.

When Reasonable Suspicion Meets Probable Cause

Reasonable suspicion may easily lead to probable cause in several cases. This means that an officer finds evidence of a crime while observing a situation based on reasonable suspicion, leading to probable cause and arrest.

For example, a police officer may be conducting a traffic stop. They see a motorist acting strangely and veering over the lines. They are not only driving erratically, but they are also exceeding the speed limit by 20 miles per hour. The police activate their siren and pull over the motorist. When they tell the driver to pull the window down, they discover a strong odor of alcohol as well as bottles of beer cluttering the passenger seat.

The police may request that the motorist take a field sobriety check or a breath test and discover that the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is much higher than the legal limit. At this time, the officer has the authority to arrest the suspect for drunk driving.

At first, the officer had just a reasonable suspicion that alcohol may be a cause of reckless driving. However, after additional investigation, they discovered evidence of illegal activity.

Search and Seizure Laws in Arizona

General Overview: Even though the Arizona Constitution does not reiterate the Fourth Amendment verbatim, its Declaration of Rights does include two complementary clauses:

  • Section 4: “no one shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
  • Section 8: “no one shall be disturbed in his private affairs or have his house invaded without the authority of law.”

Conditions of Probable Cause: Although Arizona law doesn’t explicitly define the probable cause, it does give grounds for granting a warrant to search and seize property under the following circumstances:

  • Property that was embezzled or stolen
  • Property used to commit a public crime
  • Property in the hands of a person with the intent to use it to commit a public crime
  • Property serving as evidence in a public crime
  • Part of an approved inspection program for health, public safety, or welfare
  • When the individual being searched is the subject of an outstanding arrest warrant

Unique state laws/restrictions/rights: A person is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor if he or she causes a search warrant to be executed without probable cause and with the aim to harass.

Private Property Police Search in League City Texas: Are there Limits to a Police Search?

Federal and state law, as well as criminal procedural regulations, require a search warrant to include a detailed description of where law enforcement people intend to conduct their investigation as well as what property they aim to seize. The search can only take place in the areas specified in the warrant.

As an example, if the warrant specifies a search of a kitchen and bedroom, police are not authorized to enter any other areas of the house or cars parked on the property to conduct the search there as well.

Private Property Police Search in League City Texas: What Things Can Be Lawfully Seized?

If authorities discover the property that is stated in the warrant, they have the authority to seize it without the permission of the owner. Without a specific warrant, locked things on the property can’t be unlocked just for the purpose of conducting a search.

There are, however, a few exceptions, such as:

  • The object or things may be seized if they are visible but located in an area not mentioned by the warrant.
  • Officers may access places not specified by the warrant in the event that somebody is at imminent risk of bodily injury or death.
  • If it is suspected by law enforcement agents that evidence might possibly be destroyed prior to another warrant being obtained, they may legitimately seize the property.
  • To capture a fleeing suspect, officers may access other portions of the house or property.

Private Property Police Search in League City Texas: When is it Legal for a Police to Search Your Vehicle?

People often ask what circumstances allow police officers to search cars. Warrants are usually required to search cars. Exceptions include probable cause such as:

  • If an officer smells marijuana when approaching a car, he has probable cause to search the car for narcotics and drug paraphernalia.
  • If a car passenger is arrested, law enforcement agents may search the vehicle for anything that can be related to the crime.
  • Officers may legitimately search a car if they think its driver or passengers have weapons in their possession.
  • A police search of the car becomes legal if the vehicle owner consents.
  • When a vehicle is lawfully impounded, authorities can legally search it or conduct an inventory search.

When authorities do not have legal clearance or probable cause to search a vehicle, they may try to justify their actions by citing one of these exceptions. If you find yourself in this situation, our attorneys at Scott M. Brown may be able to prevent seized items from being utilized as evidence.

Private Property Police Search in League City Texas: Can the Police Search Your Home Without a Warrant?

There are several circumstances in which law enforcement officers may conduct a search without a warrant. Whenever a suspect is initially arrested or detained, authorities often conduct a search without a warrant, like in the case of someone suspected of committing a crime. They can be pulled over and frisked.

Following an arrest, authorities often undertake a wider search to establish if the defendant is in possession of illicit substances, firearms, or other evidence linked to the criminal activity. If granted permission, police may perform a search of the house, a car, or other locked portions of the property. Residents, however, have the freedom to object.

Angleton, Pearland, Webster, Houston Texas Criminal Defense Attorney

A private property police search in League City, Texas is illegal if it does not fulfill the legal standard standards. As a result, any evidence gathered during the search may be ruled inadmissible in court. A defense counsel requests that the court grant a suppression motion. They may also submit a motion to return the property. Anyone who has had their house or car searched must ensure that the search was legal and that their right to privacy wasn’t violated.

If you feel your constitutional rights have been infringed, you should consult Scott M. Brown & Associates.  Our criminal defense attorneys have the experience and knowledge required to assess the case and decide if a client’s rights have been violated.

Contact us immediately for a confidential consultation!

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