Dallas, TX asked in Civil Rights, Criminal Law, Traffic Tickets and Cannabis & Marijuana Law for Texas

Q: Can police legally unlock and search my glovebox without a warrant

I was recently stopped for an expired registration which if I'm correct right now is not even stoppable offense due to covid-19 and subsequently pulled out and surendered marijuana from my person to the officer he then without saying anything else to be watching his car got gloves one over to my vehicle without consent or informing me that he's going to search, began searching my vehicle and unlocked my locked glove box, and found a sizable amount of a substance alleged to be methamphetamine and I was charged with possession of controlled substance under over 4 g under 200

2 Lawyer Answers
Brian Foley
Brian Foley
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Conroe, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: You're best legal challenge would be the reason for the initial detention. In Texas a police officer has to have reasonable suspicion that a traffic violation has occurred to pull over a vehicle. If the only reason the officer had to pull you over was the expired registration sticker it may well be that the stop was Illegal and all of the evidence found form the stop is "fruit of the poisonous tree" and should be suppressed leading to a dismissal. However it isn't agreed upon throughout the state that the registration sticker is an invalid reason for a stop. Governor Greg Abbott has announced that the temporary waiver of certain vehicle title and registration requirements will end on April 14, 2021. So until that time you cannot be convicted of the offense of displaying an expired registration sticker, but it is an open question undecided by the courts as to if an officer may begin an investigative detention. In Harris County the District Attorney's Office has issued memoranda to the assistants to this effect but in other counties you may be dealing with a different situation.

As far as the searching of the locked glove box, California v. Acevedo from the United States Supreme Court holds that an officer may search the entire car inside and out including locked containers like a locked glove box if the officer has probable cause that evidence of a crime will be found in the vehicle. In this instance you seemed to indicate that marihuana was taken from your person prior to the search of the vehicle. Depending on how any why your person was searched this could lead to enough probable cause to search the locked glove box based on what is called the "automobile exception." The automobile exception would not save the legality of the search if it is ruled that the stop was invalid because of the registration issue.

1 user found this answer helpful

Grant St Julian III
Grant St Julian III
Answered
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Dallas, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: Expired registration remains an offense in Texas which gives an officer the right to stop a vehicle. The odor of marijuana in the vehicle gives the officer the right to search the vehicle. Was the vehicle registered to you? There may be an affirmative link issue (it's a legal thing; get with an attorney). Good luck.

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.