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When Do Police Need a Search Warrant?

Under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, citizens are entitled to privacy when they have an expectation of that privacy. Law enforcement must uphold that expectation in a majority of situations. Specifically, the Fourth Amendment ensures that a person is not subjected to an unreasonable search and seizure of their property by police without a warrant. Key to the legality of a search and seizure is the possession of a warrant or extenuating circumstances that require immediate actions.

Make Sure Your Fourth Amendment Rights Are Upheld

A warrant is a legal order signed by a judge that allows police officers to search for a specific object at a certain location that has been detailed on the warrant. In order to obtain a warrant, police must prove that they have probable cause to believe that a crime has occurred and specific evidence may be found at a certain location. This information is based on the direct observations of the police officers, citizens, and informants. If the details suggest enough evidence is present to constitute probable cause, a warrant will be issued.

However, there are some scenarios when a warrant is not required to make a search:

  • The accused was able to freely and voluntarily give consent to the search.
  • Evidence and contraband is in plain sight and the accused does not expect privacy.
  • When an arrest is made and items are within the immediate control of the arrestee.
  • A suspect is stopped in connection with a crime and their body is frisked for weapons.
  • When public safety would be endangered in the time it would take to get a warrant.

It is important to remember that when a warrant is issued, law enforcement is only able to go to the place located on the warrant and seize the specific property listed. For example, if a search warrant details that marijuana plants may be discovered in the backyard of a suspect, police are unable to use that warrant to search the defendant's home for weapons. However, if police are searching the backyard and discover illegal weapons in their search, that evidence can be seized and used in court.

Have you had your home or body searched in connection with a drug crime? Make sure that law enforcement upheld your Fourth Amendment rights! Contact the Zendeh Del Law Firm, PLLC for a free initial case consultation to get started.