Most people are under the impression that police have no right to conduct
a search without a warrant, based on the Fourth Amendment protections
against “unreasonable search and seizure.” They are also aware
of the exclusionary rule, which prevents any evidence which is obtained
illegally from being used against you in court. Under some circumstances,
however, police are allowed to conduct a search without a warrant, and
can legally use that evidence against you.
If You Give Consent
The police do not need a warrant to search your property if you agree to
the search. However, you cannot be tricked or pressured into consenting
to a search, and you must be in control of the area which will be searched.
If you refuse to submit to a search, the police cannot use your refusal
as an indicator of potential illegal activity.
If an Object is in Plain Sight
When an object is in plain sight, the police officer has the right to seize
the object. The condition of this, however, is that the officer must have
a legal right to be where they are. In other words, a police officer cannot
enter a residence illegally and then seize something inside which is in
“plain sight.” If they can see the object from outside the
house, however, they may enter the property to seize the object.
If You Were Legally Arrested
Law enforcement officers are allowed to search you, and the area which
is in your immediate control, following an arrest. They may also make
a broader sweep search if they have reason to believe that there may be
an accomplice lurking nearby. During this “cursory visual inspection,”
the police are allowed to seize any evidence related to criminal activity
which they can plainly see.
Stopped for Probable Cause
When the police pull you over, they are allowed to search for evidence
which is related to the stop. If the reason for the stop is speeding,
the officer is not allowed to open the trunk to search for drug paraphernalia.
However, they are permitted to search you and the car for weapons if they
suspect that you are participating in illegal behavior.
Facing Criminal Charges? Call Our Firm Today.
While these are general explanations of legal searches without a warrant,
real-life situations tend to get much more complex and have more moving
pieces. This is why it’s so vital to contact a skilled Southern
California criminal defense attorney who can pick apart the prosecution’s
case, and call as much of their evidence into doubt as possible.