Can Police Officers Execute Property Search If They Suspect Drugs?

Can Police Execute The Search Of Automobiles Or A Home Without A Warrant If There Is A Suspicion Or Probable Cause Of Drugs Being On The Premises Or In The Car?

Automobiles are considered a different aspect as opposed to someone’s home or residence under the law in the State of Texas. For example, if someone is stopped for a traffic ticket on the side of the road, the police officer has a right to search that driver’s wingspan area. That means if the driver of the car is sitting in the driver’s seat, then the police officer could ask the driver to step out of the car without having probable cause, just for their own safety. Even if they do not smell or see drugs, they can ask the driver to step out so they could search the driver’s wingspan.

A driver’s wingspan means wherever the law enforcement officer is able to reach in the car into the driver’s seat. The police officer does not have to have probable cause to search that area. The reason that the Texas courts have allowed that type of search to occur is, in theory, when the police officer is walking back to his car or he is walking up to his car or he is doing the procedure that would go along with a traffic ticket, that the driver could actually grab some type of weapon within his reach to possibly harm the officer. Therefore, a police officer can search the wingspan of the car. If the police officer has probable cause, meaning he smells marijuana, sees marijuana, sees some other drug or smells some other type of drug, he could search the car.

Often in the State of Texas, you may see on a major highway a car pulled over and the trunk and the hood open and all the doors open and the occupants of the vehicle standing away from the car and police officers searching it. They often have not been given consent to search the car, they have just come across some type of probable cause that gives them a reason to believe that there are drugs in the car, now they may search the car. The reason they do not need a search warrant is because, in theory, the car could leave or the person could destroy and remove the drugs.

In regards to a house, unless the police officer sees drugs in plain view, meaning they walked up to a house and they knocked on the door and the person opened the door and the officer saw drugs in plain view, he could go in and secure those drugs, but he would need a search warrant to search the rest of the house. Even if he smelled marijuana or any other type of drug, he would need a search warrant to enter that house or enter inside any type of fenced in area or building, anything attached to the house is considered part of that property. To search it, they are going to need that search warrant.

There are limited circumstances where he may not need a search warrant, and those are called exigent circumstances. However, they are very specific under the law and most often you would see a search warrant obtained. In that case, the police officers would just stay at the scene, they would detain all the people and they may detain something that they think contains drugs, such as a chest or briefcase and then go and get a search warrant before they actually do a search.

If During A Property Search, Either In A Home Or Car, Drugs Are Found, And There Is Someone Not Directly Linked Or Related To The Drugs, Can They Still Be Charged With A Drug Crime?

That depends on what the law has characterized as affirmative links. Taking the case when someone is driving a car and they do not own the car, they are just borrowing the car and they are going somewhere. If they commit a traffic violation and a police officer pulls them over and walks to the back of the car and they smell what they think is marijuana, the police officer may open the trunk and sees some marijuana inside, then yes. Theoretically, there has to be some affirmative link for the person operating the car to those drugs found in the car. The police will look for evidence such as fingerprints on the drugs, and if there is something that can be articulated to show that the person driving the car or occupying the car as a passenger had knowledge that those drugs were in there?

Obviously, if the car is registered to that person that allows the government to have a good argument that person knew drugs were in there because it is their car. However, if it is not their car, not registered to them or they are a passenger in the car, what are the affirmative links that tie that person to the car? For example, if there is a passenger in the back passenger seat of a car? Are the drugs found on the floorboard in front of that person or would they know about the drugs? That might be considered an affirmative link.

There need to be affirmative links to the person that is charged with the drugs. If the prosecutor is doing their homework, those affirmative links would be used to show that the person had knowledge that the drugs were in the car, therefore they possessed them.

In Texas, Police Officers Can Execute A Property Search If They Suspect Drugs. For more information, call the law office of James Alston for a FREE Initial Consultation at (713) 228-1400 and get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.

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