Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Written consent required for traffic searches if Senate bill passes

Texas police officers must obtain written consent before searching a motor vehicle at a traffic stop without probable cause or some other legal basis, if the committee substitute for SB 1195 by Hinojosa, which passed out of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee today, becomes law. (Notice of the vote is not online yet, but a colleague emailed the good news from the hearing.)

The House Law Enforcement Committee heard the same bill Monday where it was left pending. Two committee chairs, Representatives Harold Dutton, D-Houston, and Suzanna Hupp, R-Lampassas joint-authored the House version. Only the Dallas News
covered the hearing
that I saw (see Grits' write-up of the Senate debate here), but I was glad to see them quoting Rep. Hupp declaring, "The Fourth Amendment has been walked all over in the name of the drug war."

Sing it loud, sister!

This version of the bill, if it became law, would have the Texas Department of Public Safety generate a consent form through its rulemaking process. At the end of the day it should have a big impact bolstering drivers' Fourth Amendment rights, though I certainly prefer an outright ban. In Austin, when a requirement to obtain written consent was instituted, the number of citizens consenting to searches declined by 63%.

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