No Vehicle Searches Without a Warrant

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

The next time an officer asks to search your car, and you tell them no they'll have to get a search warrant.

This new Supreme Court ruling has agencies all over the Basin working to switch their policies. For the past 30 years, officers have been able to search a car if they have probable cause during an arrest. But now, that's all changing. 

"Another stumbling block for law enforcement, something we're going to have to overcome," Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter, said.

Here's how it works: if an officer suspects a car contains drugs, before that officer can search the car they have to fill out an affidavit requesting a search warrant explaining why. Then they take that to a judge, day or night, to get the warrant.

And all this happens while the officer waits at the scene with the suspect, something Sheriff Painter says is dangerous.

"They're going to have to be out there on the scene," Sheriff Painter said. "They're going to have to be out there the whole time. They're going to have their friends coming by, gang members coming by, other criminals coming by. It's exposure, and that's a bad situation. I think it's an extremely bad ruling."

But there is an exception. Officers can only search without a warrant when the suspect reaches for a weapon or trys to destroy the evidence.

"I have no doubt it will shake up the court system, it will shake up criminal justice, and again, another stumbling block," Sheriff Painter said.

NewsWest 9 also spoke with the Odessa Police Department. They say right now they're working with their legal advisory committee to determine exactly how these changes will affect their officers. And the Midland County District Attorney's office says right now they're in the learning process too, trying to figure out how it will impact our area judges.