To convict a person of a crime, police and prosecutors need evidence. It is the prosecutor’s burden to prove that people are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crime and they rely on the evidence gathered by the police to try and meet their burden. When police are gathering evidence, they need to follow rules and cannot just take whatever they want to take.
All people are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures of property under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. What is considered reasonable has been debated over the years through various cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United Sates. In many situations, the law requires that police obtain search warrants before searching people and property, but there are exceptions to that rule.
Situations when police can search without a warrant
People are afforded the most protection inside their homes. Police almost always need a search warrant to enter a home. However, there are exceptions to this as well. Those exceptions allow police to search a home if they have consent; if it is part of a lawful arrest; if there is an emergency situation that needs to be remedied faster than they can obtain a warrant; or if the police see items inside the home in plain view from where they are standing outside of the home.
Police are also able to conduct brief pat-down searches of people without a warrant if they have a reasonable belief that they are involved in criminal activity and also to check for weapons.
Police are granted much more freedom when searching a vehicle. They can search vehicles without a warrant if they believe there is evidence of a crime inside the vehicle. They can also search the driver and passengers as part of a legal traffic stop. Police can have dogs sniff the outside of vehicles as well.
There are various ways that police in Texas obtain the evidence they need to convict people of crimes. However, searching people and property produces some of the best evidence. Police must follow the law when doing this though. If they do not follow the law regarding searches, any evidence found during the search may be thrown out and convictions become much less likely. Experienced attorneys understand the laws police must follow and may be a useful resource.