When a cop doesn’t have a warrant or exigent circumstances (circumstances that would provide for the destruction of evidence or commission of a crime), he cannot search your property without your consent. While this seems simple, many people don’t understand that if a cop asks, “Mind if I search your car?”, they can say no. Now, the city of Dallas is going to make the process of consent searches more sound by requiring cops to get written or recorded consent every time.
Several years ago, Governor Perry vetoed a law that would have required law enforcement officers around the state to get written or recorded consent for vehicle searches during traffic stops. Since then, Austin has reinstated a written consent policy, according to Grits For Breakfast. And now, Dallas is next.
According to the Dallas News, the policy should be in place within the next few weeks. Among other things, the city is hoping it will quell racial profiling, or the claims of profiling.
In 2011, one in eight traffic stops of African Americans resulted in searches. For whites, the figure was one in 28. With rates like this, it’s easy to see how a black person could feel targeted when the cops ask, “mind if I search your car?” after stopping them for speeding or a headlight out.
Police Chief David Brown said that fewer than 5 percent of all traffic stops in the city result in a search. But, these searches, though they represent a small number, are very important. If a cop doesn’t have probable cause or a warrant, he is shooting in the dark when he asks for consent to search.
As a citizen, consent searches require your consent. This means you can say no. No one likes being told no, so there is a good chance the officer won’t like your refusal, but it remains your right. If the officer is deciding whether or not to ticket you or let you go with a warning, he could potentially err on the side of the ticket if he doesn’t like the fact that you denied his search. But, it remains your right.
If you are pulled over for something simple and are treated like a criminal suspect from the get-go, you likely feel like you owe the officer absolutely nothing, and the truth is, you’re right. But, when you end up arrested and facing criminal charges, your feelings about the situation can change.