Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, you as a citizen are protected against unreasonable government intrusion into your home, property, business, vehicle, or person, particularly in regards to police searches. In many cases, police must first obtain a written search warrant from a judge before they are able to legally search a person or their property and seize evidence while investigating possible criminal activity. But can you be subjected to a police search without a warrant? In some cases, yes.
When Is a Warrant Not Required?
There are several circumstances in which a law enforcement officer may conduct a search without a warrant, with most searches actually occurring without a warrant being issued. Many of these instances revolve around the concept of “probable cause,” or if a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a person has committed a crime. While individuals have a reasonable expectation to privacy, police officers can have grounds to legally violate this right where certain exemptions apply.
The police are able to search without a warrant in the following scenarios:
- Consent: The police may perform a search without a warrant if you give them your express permission or voluntarily invite them into your home or business. With that being said, you cannot be tricked or coerced into consenting to a search.
- The plain view doctrine: The police can legally search an area and seize any evidence of illegal activity if it is left clearly visible. For example, if the police view an illegal act being conducted outside your home, they may search your home and seize any evidence held within without a warrant. Likewise, if you are pulled over and the police officer sees an open alcohol container in the front seat, they may search your vehicle without a warrant.
- Searches in connection with an arrest: If you are arrested for a crime, the police have a legal right to protect themselves by performing a search of your person, vehicle, or home for weapons, evidence, or possible accomplices to the crime.
- Exigent circumstances: If the police have sufficient reason to believe that waiting for a warrant would compromise public safety cause evidence to be lost, they may perform an immediate search without a warrant. For example, if the police have probable cause to believe that a person is destroying evidence, someone is being harmed, or a suspect is attempting to escape, they may forcibly enter their home and conduct a search.
Similarly, the police also have the right to search beyond the bounds of a warrant if necessary to protect others, discover more about evidence in plain sight, or to look for evidence believed to be nearby based on their initial findings.
Subjected to an Illegal Search? Call (888) 966-8480
If you have been arrested for a crime following a questionable or blatantly illegal search, contact the Nassau County criminal defense lawyers at Foley Griffin, LLP immediately. With more than 75 years of combined legal experience, our team of trial-tested attorneys can fight to protect your rights and maximize your chances of securing a favorable outcome for your situation.
The sooner you get in touch with us, the sooner we can help. Schedule your free consultation today.