Texas Peace Officers do not have the right to search your vehicle, but they will ask, and depending on your answer and how it is delivered, a situation could be exacerbated.  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.  They may not like that and a continued look about the interior of your car may find something they are interested in that gives them probable cause whereby they are legally allowed to ask you to step out, so they can search you and your vehicle.

Traffic stops common inconvenience for most drivers.

Most law-abiding citizens have at one time or another been pulled over for a traffic stop, perhaps a tail light is not working, or a person forgot to affix the registration sticker on their license plate.  Even so, when a police car is behind you with the lights glaring, it is someone unnerving and it might make you answer questions rashly like allowing someone to search your vehicle.  Under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution it is unlawful for a police officer to conduct an unreasonable search or seizure of personal property.

Need reason for traffic stop.

A Tyler Texas 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 and run your information in their computer to see if you have any outstanding warrants.   A police officer may ask you to get out of the car which is fine, 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 no 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 that 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 a 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.

SB4 complications to bias-based profiling and violations of 4th Amendment could Increase.

In September of this year, 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 Tyler, 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.

 

Sources:

https://www.tcole.texas.gov/content/complaint-procedures

https://www.tylerpolice.com/Portals/0/docs/Compliment-Complaint%20Form.pdf

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/texas-sb4-immigration-enforcement-law-5-things-know-n758126