Bill halting no-consent police searches moves forward in Texas

| 5/11/2005

A bill that would take away search rights from police in Texas is making progress in the state’s legislature.

On May 10, the House Law Enforcement Committee approved SB1195, which would require officers to get written permission from motorists before they can search their vehicles, unless there is probable cause. An amendment in the House version of the bill would require police to videotape the driver’s compliance, rather than get written permission.

Currently, police in the state can perform the searches with only verbal consent, regardless of probable cause.

Civil liberty groups are hailing the bill as a victory for personal privacy, and say the current law promotes racial profiling, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

“It is happening a lot all over Texas because people do not know they have the right to refuse, or because they are intimidated and threatened with arrest,” saidSen. Juan Hinojosa, D-Mission, the bill’s author, in the Express-News.

However, law enforcement officials and state prosecutors believe the bill could hamstring officers in the field and lead to evidence problems, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

The bill passed the Senate in April, and must now be approved by the full House before it can go to the governor and be signed into law, the American-Statesman reported.