The police are permitted under certain circumstances to perform searches
of your person, home, vehicle, and other property as a means of identifying
and seizing illegal items, evidence of criminal activity, or stolen goods.
With that being said, the police’s authority to conduct searches
is not absolute. Under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution,
you are protected against unreasonable government intrusion in regards
to police searches, confiscations, and traffic stops. In essence, the
Fourth Amendment protects your rights to privacy and restrains the level
of authority law enforcement has to conduct invasive searches.
When Are Warrants Not Required?
In most circumstances, the police must first receive either a person’s
consent or a court-issued warrant prior to conducting a search. Generally
speaking, searches and seizures which are made without a warrant are considered
unconstitutional and invalid. With that being said, there are numerous
exceptions to the warrant requirement which permit the police to conduct
a warrantless search.
Searches may be valid without a warrant under the following circumstances:
Probable cause: The police may conduct a reasonable search if they should have sufficient
belief that a suspect, usually at the time of arrest, has committed or
is committing a crime. This is known as “probable cause.”
No expectation of privacy: The Fourth Amendment only protects people who have a “reasonable”
expectation of privacy. If a person has no privacy interest in the items
or evidence seized, such as illegal contraband left in plain view, the
police may seize it without contest.
Consent: The police may perform any search without a warrant if you provide your
express permission or invite them into your home or business.
Exigent circumstances: Police have limited authority to enter a person’s home or other
property without permission for some type of immediate emergency or if
waiting for a warrant would compromise public safety or evidence. For
example, if the police have sufficient reason to believe that a person
is flushing illegal drugs down the toilet, that someone is being harmed,
or if a suspect is attempting to flee, they may forcibly enter and conduct a search.
Arrest: Immediately following an arrest, the police have a legal right to protect
themselves and perform a search of the arrested person and surrounding
area for weapons, evidence, or accomplices.
The police may not do any of the following:
Search areas where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy: Unless the police have a warrant, the police may not search anywhere
that you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Depending on the circumstances,
this may include your person, luggage, purse, home, or place of business.
Use illegally-obtained evidence against you: Evidence which is obtained under illegal circumstances may not be used
to your detriment. Likewise, illegally-obtained evidence cannot be used
to justify further searches.
Trick you into consenting: Consent for searches must be free and voluntary and obtained in good
faith. The police may not use fraud, coercion, or undue duress to obtain
Arrested? Call Kyle Law Firm Today
Ultimately, only an experienced attorney will be equipped with the knowledge
and skills to identify an instance of unlawful search and seizure. If
you have been arrested for a crime and believe the police overstepped
their bounds by violating your Fourth Amendment rights, our
New Braunfels criminal defense attorneys can fight to protect your interests and contest the evidence against you.
We have more than 60 years of experience – call (830) 476-7780 today.