Austin Criminal Lawyer

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: If I am stopped for a traffic violation and the law enforcement officer asks to have a look inside my vehicle, must I agree?

A: By no means! Without using the formal wording, the officer is asking you to give up your constitutional right to be free of an unlawful search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that residents of this country have the right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…” All states have similar constitutional and statutory provisions providing protection against searches made without probable cause.

However, the courts have held that you can be stripped of this important right if you voluntarily consent to an officer’s request to search. The officer is not required to have a reason to request the search of your vehicle. You may fit a profile known to law enforcement, or the officer may just be suspicious of your looks. What’s more, prior to asking for consent, the officer does not have to inform you that you have the right to withhold consent. You are on your own in standing up to the request.

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