Texas residents who get stopped by police might initially feel confused or scared. It’s important to know when police officers cannot search your vehicle if you are ever pulled over.
No probable cause
Police officers are required to have probable cause to search a person’s vehicle after a traffic stop. An officer can’t just look at someone and think they look guilty of a crime without having any sort of evidence. If there’s no probable cause, it’s illegal for a vehicle search to take place.
If a police officer makes a driver pull over and stop and then asks if they can search the vehicle but the driver says no, that should be the end of it. Once the driver says no to a vehicle search, the police officer has no right to conduct a search. If they do it anyway, they are violating the person’s Fourth Amendment rights. In that situation, even if the officer finds something incriminating, the individual cannot be charged with a crime due to the violation of their rights.
There’s nothing incriminating in plain view
Police officers cannot search a person’s vehicle after pulling them over when there’s nothing incriminating in plain view. For example, if the officer happened to walk past the car while it was parked and spotted a suspicious plastic baggie filled with a white, powdery substance sitting in the passenger’s seat, they would have just cause to search the vehicle. However, if there is nothing in plain view that suggests the driver is guilty of a crime, the officer has no right to conduct a search.
The officer follows the driver home
Another situation where it would be illegal for a police officer to conduct a vehicle search after making a driver pull over is if they followed that person home. Police cannot trail a person to their home, force them to stop and then do a search of the person’s vehicle. This violates their civil rights and would result in the case being thrown out if an arrest is made.
If your rights were violated by police, it’s your obligation to fight back.