Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, police officers must obtain warrants from a court of law to legally conduct a search on a person and his or her property and seize evidence. Unfortunately, police do not always try to obtain a warrant before conducting a search during an investigation. Many people may not be aware that they have the right to be free from searches; likewise, there are specific situations in which police may search a person or his home without a warrant.
If police approach you at home, you may be unsure about your rights. Before responding to police, learn about your rights and what police can and cannot do under the law.
The Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures of their property by the government.
Generally, police may not search your home, car, or person without a warrant. A warrant is a legal order signed by a judge that authorizes an officer to search a specific location and take specific materials from that location by a specified time. Police may not search areas that are not named in the warrant.
By law, evidence obtained through an illegal search (without a warrant) may not be permissible in court. Not all searches without warrants, however, are illegal.
When Can Police Search Without a Warrant?
Police may search a person’s home, car, or person when there is probable cause. Probable cause refers to the requirement in the Fourth Amendment for police to have an adequate reason to arrest a suspect, conduct a search, or take belongings relating to an alleged crime.
The officer’s probable cause must stem from specific facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the suspect has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.
Responding to Police at Your Door
When police approach you at home, you must remain calm. Keeping your composure will help you ensure that they do not violate your rights. The first thing you must do is ask whether the officer has a warrant to search your home. If the officer has a warrant, he or she does not need your permission to conduct the search.
If the officer does not have a warrant but has a reasonable belief that searching your home is necessary to prevent a crime, they may search your home. If police see something illegal in plain sight or you are arrested at home, they may also search it.
If police search your home without your consent and without a warrant, your criminal defense lawyer may file a motion to suppress the evidence the search unveiled.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer in West Palm Beach
If you are under investigation for a crime in West Palm Beach, you have the right to protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. It is vital for you to discuss your situation with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible so you may learn about and protect your constitutional rights.
Brian Gabriel of The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel has over 25 years of experience helping the criminally accused overcome obstacles in the criminal justice system. Call 561-622-5575 for a free consultation or contact us online.