Can a Traffic Stop Turn Into an Unwarranted Vehicle Search in Texas?
According to the Fourth Amendment, Americans have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. In other words, if an officer shows up at your home without a search warrant, or pulls you over and asks to take a look in your car, you are legally allowed to deny the search until a proper search warrant is present. A recent Texas case, however, may put the limits of this protection in question for those individuals who are facing criminal charges.
Stopped for Speeding, Arrested for Drugs
In early November, two Austin residents were pulled over for a routine traffic stop after they were allegedly found speeding on US HWY 87. According to reports from local station San Angelo LIVE, couple Andrew Garlinghouse and Lee French-Todd provided their driver’s licenses to the police officer upon request. After noting Garlinghouse was acting “suspicious and very nervous” during the traffic stop, the officer was denied his request to search the vehicle. The law enforcement officer suspected additional criminal activity going on due to Garlinghouse’s refusal and visible discomfort, so he called a K-9 unit to the scene to check the vehicle for illicit drugs. During the search, the officer recovered several bags of methamphetamine, small baggies, a scale, Adderall, and Xanax from the couple’s vehicle. The two individuals were then arrested on multiple drug charges.
What About a Warrant?
The question remains: Is the evidence sustained during this search valid in a Texas court of law? According to the San Angelo LIVE news story, there is no mention of a search warrant before the stop, and the possibility of the officer obtaining a search warrant during the stop is impossible. So, without a search warrant, is the search and seizure legal? The legality behind officer searches can get convoluted depending on the details of the case. Looking back at historical cases from the Supreme Court, the Fourth Amendment includes an “automobile exception,” which allows officers who have stopped a vehicle and who have probable cause to believe that contraband is concealed inside the vehicle to conduct a warrantless search. In other words, the “suspicious and very nervous” actions from Garlinghouse may be considered enough for the officer’s intervention. Depending on the strength of your criminal defense team, your attorney should be able to argue against this perception of suspicion. Such feelings are considered subjective and a well-versed attorney with proper litigation experience will be able to highlight this discrepancy and use it to your advantage.
Contact a Plano, Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
If you have been arrested based on evidence that was discovered without a proper search warrant, you may have a chance of getting the evidence thrown out based on your Fourth Amendment rights. In cases like these, the abilities of your defense team and the details of their strategy can make or break your case. The Crowder Law Firm, P.C. has a two-decade history of defending the rights of clients throughout Collin County and North Texas. With over 300 not-guilty verdicts and acquittals recorded, we have a proven track record of fighting on behalf of our clients. If you have been arrested and have reason to believe that your rights have been violated, contact our Collin County criminal defense attorney at 214-303-9600 to schedule your free consultation.