Thursday, April 28, 2005

Senate consents to consent search restrictions

Big news!!!

Legislation to require written consent to search vehicles at traffic stops where officers have no cause to search passed the Texas Senate this morning on the local and consent calendar! Congrats are in order to Sen. Hinojosa and his staff. See prior Grits coverage
here and here.

When the City of Austin began requiring written consent last year, the number of drivers agreeing to give up their rights
declined 63%. Four other states and the California Highway Patrol have banned consent searches entirely. Hopefully the passage of the Senate bill will give the idea momentum now to make it through the House.

The House bill, which is joint authored by Representatives Dutton and Hupp, has already had a hearing and is pending in House Law Enforcement. Rep. Hupp sits on that committee, so with the Senate's near-unanimous affirmation, the bill should get a vote. I'm really excited it has a chance. The bill would be a great first step toward restoring Texans' long-since trampled Fourth Amendment rights at traffic stops.

UPDATE: Check out the engrossed version of the consent search bill.

In other satisfying news, Hinojosa's SB 1125 also passed the Senate this morning on consent. That bill would rein in rogue drug task forces that refused to come under the supervision of the Texas Department of Public Safety - more fallout, essentially, from the Tulia and Hearne scandals. A South Texas drug task force that would be affected by the bill tried to attack Hinojosa in the press, releasing police footage of a traffic stop they said inspired his bill. But Hinojosa has spent years imposing accountability on rogue task forces, so the charges didn't stick. Obviously the Senate sided with their homey.

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