Sunday, May 22, 2005

House considers restricting consent searches on final possible day

Good news! On the final day it can consider Senate bills, the Texas House may take an important step on Tuesday toward restoring drivers' Fourth Amendment rights at traffic stops, which have been diminished by the courts in recent decades to near non-existence. Legislation requiring written or videotaped consent for searches at traffic stops has been placed on the final "major state" calendar for the Texas House of Represenatives. That spot on the calendar is reserved for critical state business, and guarantees the bill will get a vote.

The legislation has moderated considerably from the original total ban proposed in HB 2418 and SB 1195, but it's still a significant first step toward restoring drivers' rights. DPS will be in charge of developing the written consent instrument through its rulemaking process for statewide use, as well as establishing rules for what quailifies as videotaped consent. House co-sponsors Harold Dutton and Suzannah Hupp, along with Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, have all worked tirelessly to move this bill along. I should also add that a solid majority of our ACLU legislative committee members have helped work on this bill at some point, along with NAACP, LULAC, and at key moments, the National Rifle Association. To all: Muchas gracias. I've learned better than to read tea leaves, but given that the bill passed on "consent" in the Senate and was designated "major state" legislation in the House, it seems to have good momentum heading into the homestretch.

I've covered this topic pretty thoroughly in the past, so rather than rehash it further, let me refer readers to prior
Grits coverage on this legislation:

How often do drivers refuse consent to search?
Austin drivers refuse searches when they know they can
'Strange coalition' backs consent search ban
Texas consent search ban legislation monitored overseas
Senate committee endorses written consent for searches
Senator faces police retaliation over bills
Senate consents to consent search restrictions
House panel restricts consent searches
Cops say written consent okay

this report gives a lot of Texas background on the topic of consent searches based on analyses of data gathered by local departments in compliance with Texas' racial profiling law.

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