When Can the Police Search My Car for Drugs?

April 26th, 2017 by Tad Nelson in Drug Crime

Many drug crimes cases in Texas start with a traffic stop. Texas law enforcement officers are trained to profile certain types of individuals as possible drug traffickers. If you are stopped by police, the most important thing to remember is you have a constitutional right to remain silent: Anything can and will be used against you in a court of law.

Police Profiling Leads to Marijuana Conviction

You may not appreciate this principle until you are facing a possible jail sentence for drug possession. Consider a recent Texas case involving a woman arrested, tried, and convicted of marijuana possession. The defendant was traveling from California through Texas when she was detained by a Department of Public Safety officer for speeding.

When an officer stops you for speeding or any other traffic violation, they are looking for any possible sign of illegal activity, such as drunk driving or drug possession. In this case, the officer observed the defendant had traveled a long distance–judging by the empty cigarette cartons and candy wrappers in plain view–and the fact she was driving on a road identified by police as a “drug corridor.”

The officer inferred the defendant might be transporting illegal drugs. The officer instructed the defendant to sit in his patrol car “for safety reasons” while he processed the speeding violation. The officer started to ask questions. The defendant admitted she was from the Sacramento area of California. The officer knew this was “the site of a lot of marijuana groves,” which only furthered his suspicion.

The defendant refused the officer permission to search her vehicle. After about half an hour, the office finally determined that he had probable cause to search the defendant’s car without her consent. He did so and recovered marijuana.

A jury convicted the defendant of marijuana possession. She received a two-year jail sentence. The defendant appealed the verdict, arguing the officer’s search was unconstitutional. But a Texas appeals court said the officer did nothing wrong. The court said all of the factors cited by the officer–the fact the defendant was from northern California, evidence that she slept in her car, and her “unusual degree of nervousness” under questioning–all rendered the officer’s non-consensual search “reasonable.”

Speak to a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney

As any qualified Houston criminal defense lawyer can tell you, the best thing to do when questioned by the police is not to answer. While you must provide identification and registration when detained in a traffic stop, you do not have to answer any other questions, such as, “Where are you going?” or “Have you been sleeping in your car?”. And if you are placed under arrest on drug charges and need legal advice, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates right away.

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