When Do the Police Need a Warrant to Search Me or My Property?
Many people believe that the police need a warrant to search them or their property. It’s understandable that people expect that they have a right to privacy in their home, car, or even in their purses or backpacks, however, there are many circumstances under which the police do not need a warrant to search those places. It’s important to be aware of when the police can and cannot search without a warrant.
Why Do Police Need Warrants to Search?
It’s helpful to start with an understanding of why police need warrants to search people and property. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides that citizens are free from unreasonable searches and seizures conducted by the government in places where citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, the key word that matters is “unreasonable,” meaning that if there is a good cause to search you or your property, police can do so. A warrant is one way police may demonstrate that they have good cause to search you or your property.
Where Do I Have a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy?
Generally, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your home and in the land immediately surrounding your home, as well as hotel rooms and business premises. You also have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of your luggage, in your car, and on your person.
When Do Police Not Need a Warrant to Search Me or My Property?
There are many circumstances in which the police are allowed to search you or your property without a warrant. Below is a summary, however, all the listed exceptions have their own exceptions so to be sure, contact one of our attorneys to discuss the specifics of your situation.
- Search incident to lawful arrest – if you have been lawfully placed under arrest, police can search you and the area immediately surrounding you, like your pockets, or a backpack you were wearing.
- Exigent circumstances – if police are in hot pursuit of a fleeing felon or if they believe there is a threat to public safety or evidence, police can search you or your property.
- Stop and frisk – if police stopped you based on a reasonable suspicion of a crime, the officer can conduct a pat-down of you for weapons if they believe you are dangerous and they have a reasonable and articulable suspicion.
- Automobile exception – if police have probable cause to believe that a part of your car contains evidence of a crime or contraband like drugs, they can perform a search.
- Plain view – if a weapon or contraband is visible to officers in plain view, meaning they do not have to move anything to see it, they do not need a warrant for that item.
- Consent – if you give voluntary consent for police to search you or your property, then the police do not need a warrant.
What Do I Do if I Have Been Arrested?
At Valiente, Carollo and McElligott PLLC, we understand that you are innocent until proven guilty. We also know that good people are often accused of crimes they did not commit, or simply had a bad day that they should not be punished for. If you have been arrested, it is imperative that you contact a criminal defense attorney immediately, especially before speaking with the police. The attorneys at Valiente, Carollo and McElligott PLLC will defend you to the fullest extent possible. Contact Valiente, Carollo and McElligott PLLC today.
Posted in: Criminal