If you are stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence in Texas, you may wonder what parts of your vehicle law enforcement is allowed to search. A valid question is can a police officer search the trunk of your car if you’ve been pulled over? Pursuant to Texas statutes and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, the answer to this question is not a simple “yes” or “no.”
DUI stop and search of elements of vehicle immediately in control of driver
Texas law is clear that a police officer has the ability to search that part of a vehicle that is immediately under a driver’s control at the time of a DUI stop. A main motivating factor allowing this type of search of a vehicle’s passenger cabin and items in it is police and public safety.
DUI stop and probable cause to search the trunk
The issue of what a valid search of a vehicle’s trunk becomes less clear, according to criminal defense case law and the Constitution. The bottom line is that a police officer making a DUI stop can search the trunk of a car at that time if the official has probable case to do so. Probable cause is the reasonable belief on the part of a police officer that evidence of a crime may be found in the vehicle’s trunk.
Impounding a vehicle
At a DUI stop, a police officer has the ability to direct the vehicle to be impounded pending the issuance of a warrant from a judge to search the trunk of the car. An officer needs to demonstrate to a judge that a search warrant is proper based on probable cause the evidence of a crime is located in the trunk.