1. Home
  2.  - Wills and Probate

When can the police search someone’s body or clothing in Texas?

by | Aug 3, 2023 | Criminal Defense

There are different rules that apply to different kinds of searches in Texas. For the police to legally search someone’s vehicle or home, for example, an officer will usually need to have a warrant, get permission from the owner or have probable cause to believe that there is criminal activity underway. The Fourth Amendment and established court precedent both help protect individuals interacting with law enforcement professionals from unreasonable searches and seizures of their property.

Those who are familiar with their rights will have an easier time using them or recognizing a violation of those rights by law enforcement professionals. Few people would disagree with the assertion that a search of someone’s physical body is among the most intimate searches that police officers may conduct. A physical search, stop-and-frisk search, or Terry stops wherein police officers check someone’s person can feel incredibly invasive. These searches, like searches of an individual’s property, are subject to specific restrictions.

Officers need permission or a specific type of probable cause

Physical searches of someone’s person often begin with an officer asking to pat someone down. Some people will give their consent, while others will try to protect their privacy. If an officer wants to pat someone down without having a reason to arrest them or the consent of the person, they need probable cause to conduct the search.

Unlike other searches, which may only require a reasonable suspicion that there is a crime underway, a bodily search usually requires that an officer suspect someone has a dangerous weapon on their person. Suspicion that someone has drugs or other contraband is not an adequate reason to conduct a bodily search without the consent of the individual. The primary exception to that rule occurs when the officer is going to take someone into state custody because of an arrest. The search of someone’s person is typically necessary to prevent contraband from entering state facilities.

In scenarios where officers perform an illegal search, it may be possible to challenge the inclusion of certain evidence in the search subject’s trial. Learning about the rules that govern encounters with police officers may benefit those preparing a response to pending criminal charges in Texas, especially when their rights have been violated.