Texans believe in their right to be left alone by authorities unless the police have a good reason to interfere. That is the essence of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.
Police need to show a judge fairly strong reasons to suspect you committed a crime before they can get a warrant for a search. Otherwise, the right of Americans “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects” is supposed to be guaranteed.
Among many recent cases across the country upholding this principle, here are a couple of vivid examples.
Michigan drivers and passengers each need to OK search
A recent Michigan case confirmed that Michigan passengers can refuse to have their possessions searched, even if police have permission from the driver.
This August, an SUV overturned on a highway in the state. The crash spilled belongings across the road, including hypodermic needles.
A state trooper on the scene asked the driver for permission to search the vehicle and asked a passenger for permission to search his possessions. The driver agreed, but the passenger refused.
During the search, the trooper turned up crystal methamphetamine and a glass pipe in a backpack, which turned out to belong to the passenger.
According to a recent Michigan Supreme Court case, passengers in the state have a right to refuse searchers unless the police have a warrant, which the trooper did not. The county prosecutor obeyed the state High Court’s finding and dismissed the case against the passenger.
Indiana suspects can mess with police snooping equipment
In perhaps an even stranger case, police in Indiana suspected a local man of selling methamphetamine and convinced a judge to issue a warrant to secretly attach a GPS tracker to his car. Tracking his movements, they hoped they could gather enough evidence for a drug bust.
The police secretly installed the tracker, which worked fine for a few days. Then it stopped transmitting.
On the ground that they suspected the man of stealing police surveillance equipment and interfering with a police investigation, they got a warrant to raid his property. There, they found drugs and their GPS tracker.
But the Indiana Supreme Court rejected the arrest with a sharply worded ruling. The state’s High Court refused “to conclude the Hoosiers don’t have the authority to remove unknown, unmarked objects from their personal vehicles.”
They found that Indianans have every right to pull mysterious boxes off their cars when they find them.