A Texas traffic stop may be a harrowing experience, and you may, like many, feel uneasy interacting with law enforcement even if you have not done anything illegal. However, knowing what rights you have during a traffic stop may help you feel more comfortable when the situation arises and help ensure you do not expose yourself to unnecessary and avoidable legal trouble.
FlexYourRights.org reports that the grounds a law enforcement officer needs to have to conduct a search of your car during a traffic stop differ from those he or she would need to search your home. In most cases, a warrant is necessary for authorities to search your home without your consent. Yet, all a law enforcement officer needs to look around your car without your consent during a traffic stop is probable cause.
What might constitute probable cause
There is a difference between an officer having reasonable suspicion that something unlawful has taken place and that officer has probable cause to conduct a search of your car. Reasonable suspicion is not quite enough to warrant a search to which you do not consent. Instead, the law enforcement officer needs to have evidence or proof that illegal activity is taking place, or just took place, to search your car without your authorization.
What to do when there is no probable cause
When the officer who pulls your car over lacks probable cause and you do not want him or her to look through your vehicle, tell him or her in a polite manner that you do not consent to the vehicle search.
Once you let the officer know you are not agreeing to have your vehicle searched, ask if there is anything else the officer needs from you or if you are free to leave.