The Odessa Police Department conducted approximately 6,000 traffic stops a month in 2018. Texas Peace Officers do not have the right to search your vehicle, but they may ask, so be calm and respectful even if you say no to this request as it will keep the situation from escalating. After the usual stop request for driver’s license, registration and insurance information, some police will follow up with a question regarding any illegal items or weapons in your car. Remain courteous and answer. If there is a follow up that asks you to let them search your car, you may legally deny them access but they may decide there is visual evidence in the interior giving them probable cause and the ability to legally ask you to step out so they can search you and your vehicle.
Traffic stops are common for most drivers.
Law-abiding citizens in Odessa have at one time or another been pulled over for a traffic stop due to noticeable faulty mechanical problems with the car, or forgetting to update a license plate sticker, but it is still unnerving when a police car is behind you with the lights glaring. In a nervous state of mind, it is important to compose yourself and remember you have rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution where it is unlawful for a police officer to conduct an unreasonable search or seizure of personal property.
Reason for traffic stop.
An Odessa Police Officer must have a reason to stop a person or search them. The most common reason for a police officer to make a traffic stop is due to a violation of Texas traffic laws. Speeding, expired registration tags or something noticeably broken on a car may give an officer a reason to pull a driver over with probable cause for the stop.
Question regarding search.
During the traffic stop, the police have the right to check for visible weapons or ask if there are any in the car. If you do have a weapon you should tell officer when you are pulled over and show him your right to carry “hand gun” documentation along with driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. The policeman will run your information in their computer to see if you have any outstanding warrants. All Odessa Texas Patrol vehicles are equipped with Mobile Data Computers with State and National crime links to other departmental and records units. This allows the officers twenty-four-hour real-time information and instant updates. It is plausible that a police officer may ask you to get out of the car, but they cannot search you unless there is something visible that may look like a weapon or you are acting suspiciously. If an officer sees something that looks suspicious they can do a pat down on the outside of your clothing and if they feel something they suspect as a weapon they may remove it from your pocket. Because you are outside of the car, the officer has not reason to look inside because you are not a danger to them if you cannot retrieve a weapon that may be in the car.
Completion of traffic stop.
At the point in a traffic stop when you have given the officer all of your information, they have searched it and checked out your person, they can either give you a ticket for the reason they made the traffic stop or give you a warning and you should be on your way as long as your license is valid. The ticket you sign will be your promise to appear in a Texas Traffic Court. If you do not have a valid driver’s license you can be arrested and taken to jail.
Texas traffic stop Complications due to bias-based profiling and violations of 4th Amendment could Increase with SB4.
In September 2019, the SB4 law goes into effect in Texas and could add an additional facet to a routine traffic stop. Officers may ask about nationality or immigration status if there is a traffic violation; or if the officer has probable cause to believe the detained driver has committed another crime. The first provision of SB4 authorizes law enforcement to question the immigrant status of people during arrests. This provision faces civil rights and racial profiling challenges, especially as it applies to victims and witnesses. Latinos will likely face increased questioning even while reporting a crime and as a result ensures that people from these communities will be discouraged from reporting crimes. The requirement that local officials honor federal detainer requests may be challenged on Fourth Amendment grounds. The Fourth Amendment guarantees freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. Finally, the possible removal of any official who is found to be “materially limiting” enforcement or cooperation of immigration doctrines could violate an individual’s First Amendment right to freedom of expression.
Complaints with Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.
The Commission can only investigate complaints where a violation of law or rule occurs having to do with training, certification, appointment, licensing or other department standards; or for court ordered supervision or probation of a convicted officer. If there are allegations of criminal misconduct, the state district attorney or Texas Rangers office should be contacted and if there are violations of civil rights that may show themselves with the addition of SB4 to a traffic stop, the Federal Bureau of Investigation may investigate.
Seek legal Counsel.
If you feel you have been a victim of an illegal search or detainment by a police officer in Odessa, Texas, you should seek professional legal help to file a formal complaint with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement or a legal claim and have them review your case to see if you can sue for damages.