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Can the police search your property without a warrant? 

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2023 | Criminal Defense

If you are a suspect in a criminal matter or if are charged with a crime, law enforcement will look around for evidence they can use against you. However, it is important to understand that you are entitled to a number of protections under the U.S. Constitution. 

One of the most important protections you are entitled to under the U.S. Constitution is protection from unlawful search and seizure. If law enforcement violates this protection, then you can petition the court to dismiss any evidence obtained therein.

So what makes an unlawful search and seizure?

The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from police overreach by limiting their power to intrude into people’s privacies and execute arrests or search and seize property. These limits are the cornerstone of the search-and-seizure doctrine. 

Per the 4th Amendment, law enforcement cannot search and seize your property without a valid search warrant or probable cause. However, like most legal doctrines, the 4th Amendment does have its share of exceptions. In other words, there are instances when law enforcement may search and seize your property without a court warrant. Here are some of these instances:

  • While executing a lawful arrest: If the police are arresting you for a crime, they will not need a warrant to conduct a search since this is part of the arrest process. This is based on the notion that the police must have had probable cause that you are committing a crime in the first place.
  • When you consent to the search: By consenting to a search, which some people surprisingly do, you will be giving up your protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
  • When there is something illegal in plain view: You generally do not have a reasonable privacy interest in contraband that you leave in plain view. For instance, if you have open alcohol bottles in your car during a DUI stop, the police may be able to confiscate such evidence without a search warrant.

Know your rights

An encounter with law enforcement can be frightening even when you are not breaking any law. Knowing your legal options, however, is the first and most important step in protecting your rights from unjust infringements. 

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