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When do authorities have grounds to search your car?

On Behalf of | Jun 1, 2022 | Criminal Defense

During a Texas traffic stop, the law enforcement official who pulls you over may ask if he or she may look around your vehicle. Depending on the specifics of the situation, you may have the right to refuse such a request. Understanding when you do and do not have the right to refuse a law enforcement officer’s search request may help you avoid unnecessary legal trouble.

According to FlexYourRights.org, a law enforcement officer must have one of three things to conduct a search of your car. He or she has to have a warrant, your permission or something that constitutes probable cause.

Understanding what probable cause means

“Probable cause” means the officer who stops you has reason to believe something illegal is taking place, or just took place. However, an officer’s suspicion, by itself, is not enough to meet the probable cause threshold. He or she must instead have some type of evidence that indicates you were engaging in something illegal to search your car without a warrant or your consent.

Understanding what happens in the absence of probable cause

If the law enforcement official who pulls you over does not have a warrant or anything on you that would constitute probable cause, you maintain your right to deny his or her request to look around your car. Should you decide to exercise it, inform the officer as much and then ask him or her if you are free to leave.

Maintain your cool, regardless of the circumstances surrounding your traffic stop. Demonstrating any animosity when dealing with law enforcement is unlikely to work in your favor.

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