What constitutes probable cause to search private property?

UPDATED: Mar 27, 2012

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What constitutes probable cause to search private property?

I was passenger of a vehicle that was stopped for a traffic violation. The driver had drugs on both him and in the car so he was arrested. They searched my person but there wasn’t any on me. After being searched none was found but when asked to search my backpack I didn’t give consent. They called multiple dog units but none showed and so my bag was searched anyway.

Asked on March 27, 2012 under Criminal Law, Texas


Hong Shen / Roberts Law Group

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

In 1999, the United States Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, held in Wyoming v. Houghton, that it does not require a separate probable cause to search a passenger bag. Here, the traffic violation could provide enough probable cause to search the car. The search of the car could be under two exceptions to the warrant requirement: search incident to an arrest and automobile exception. Either way, the search to the automobile is valid. Then according to the above case, the search to your bag is also valid under the automobile exception.

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