• Knowing what constitutes "probable cause" is important if an officer asks to search your vehicle. A police officer in Texas must have probable cause for any kind of vehicle search.

    What Is Probable Cause?

    The definition of probable cause is the belief a person might have committed a crime. The court's definition of probable cause is determined by the surrounding circumstances. Based on the facts the officer knew at the time, was that suspicion reasonable?

    Vehicle Searches In Texas

    A warrant is generally not needed to search a person's car because the person can flee before a warrant would be available. That said, in Texas, there are ways your car can be searched without a warrant and without your consent.

    Illegal Object or Substance

    If an officer has reason to believe your car contains an illegal weapon, drugs or other prohibited substance, he can search your car. But he must only search the part of the car believed to contain the prohibited item. If he thinks you have an illegal weapon, then he can't search under your hood, for example.

    Crime Evidence

    If an officer thinks you have evidence pertaining to a crime in your car or items used in the commission of a crime, then he is allowed to search your car. If the driver of the car is arrested, the officer automatically has probable cause to search the passenger area of the car, including the glove compartment.

    When The "Automobile Exception" Doesn't Apply

    If the vehicle is parked in a garage or similar area, the regular guidelines about obtaining a warrant apply, even if the officer has probable cause.

    When You Give Consent

    If the officer asks if he can search part of your car, and you say, "Yes," then he can search that part of your car. Anything he finds can be used against you, even if you have consented to the search. Some attorneys advise against consenting to any searches because you never know what another person might have left in your car.


    Texas Criminal Law Blog

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