Is it legal in TX for a police officer to search your vehicle if you are pulled over for a minor traffic offense ?

Asked almost 2 years ago - Arlington, TX

A friend was pulled over for going right at the stop sign and went to the outside lane instead of the inner lane. He pulled over into a random persons driveway due to it being the only open spot on the street. When approached by the officers he was asked for info. He provided that and it came back that he had a warrant out of another county. He was arrested and then asked if they could search the vehicle. When he refused they brought the canine unit in and said they hit on something. However, when he got out of the vehicle the door got locked but the keys were on the top of the car. Can they legally search the vehicle at this point and if so what was the probable cause for the search. He had no prior convictions and did not in any way resist during the arrest.

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Macy Michelle Jaggers


    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . They couldn't detain him for an extended length of time for the purpose of bringing in the drug dog. But since they were arresting him on the warrants anyway, that's irrelevant. They also could have just done an inventory search of the vehicle, because they could have impounded it based on his arrest and the vehicle's location. All that being said, his attorney should certainly review what the police state as their probable cause in their report.

    Macy Jaggers's answer to a legal question on Avvo does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Ms. Jaggers... more
  2. David Daniel White


    Contributor Level 12


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Agreed. Police can search a vehicle incident to arrest and the warrant is sufficient reason to arrest.

    The Law Office of David D. White, PLLC
    1205 Rio Grande St.
    Austin, TX 78701
    (512) 369-3737

  3. Millie Leone Thompson

    Contributor Level 3


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I agree with the other attorneys that the police could have searched the passenger compartment as a search incident to arrest, and the entire car pursuant to the inventory exception to the warrant requirement.

    If the police claim that they conducted an inventory search in this situation, but cannot actually produce the inventory sheet, a lawyer has a good argument for suppressing anything found in the car. The Supreme Court has held that police cannot use the inventory exception to go on a rummaging expedition - if police want to use the exception, then they actually need to inventory the car. Your friend needs to a hire a lawyer who knows what to ask for in discovery (the inventory sheet), and who will properly brief the court on the suppression issue (if there is one).

    The preceding is not intended to be legal advice. Nor does this entry create an attorney-client relationship. No... more
  4. James S. Lawrence

    Contributor Level 15


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . If you are pulled over for a minor traffic offense, then issued a citation, the car normally cannot be searched without consent. See Knowles v. Iowa, 525 U.S. 113 (1998). However, once he was subject to arrest upon a valid warrant (if there actually was an arrest warrant), the police normally could impound the car and do an "inventory search," with evidence from that search being admissible into evidence. I do not see where they even needed the dog, or consent. However, his lawyer can make an argument that the car should not have been searched or seized, and a judge might rule his way. The only way to know for sure is to try. A case on illegal search can be decided by the US Supreme Court and have the justices disagree, so it is not surprising that attorneys and judges might disagree on this search.

    Contact me at 248-399-6930 for a free consultation. You and I do not have an attorney-client relationship formed... more

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