Believe it or not, but there are certain scenarios that will allow the police to search you home without a warrant. The Fourth Amendment gives private citizens protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. It also protects citizens from having illegally seized items from being used against them as evidence in court. However, the US Supreme Court has made several exceptions to the Fourth Amendment. These six exceptions allow the police to search you and your home without a warrant.
What is a warrant?
Before lawalways gets to when searches can be conducted, let’s first understand what a warrant is and why it would be necessary for law enforcement to need one. As we already stated, the Fourth Amendment is in place to protect citizens from unlawful searches, and warrants are the necessary legal documents that make a search lawful. Search warrants are requested by law enforcement. The requests are either granted or denied by a judge. Warrants allow officers to search for a specific item or items at a specific location, time and date based on probable cause. Because warrants are so specific, officers are limited to searching within the confines of the warrant.
1. Lawful Arrest
When the police make a lawful arrest, they are within their legal bounds to search the immediate area of the arrest.
If you give verbal consent to a search without being coerced or tricked, law enforcement can legally search your home without a warrant. It is important to note that you are not obligated to consent to a search of your home, no matter how hard you are pressed by officers.
3. Plain Sight
If a police officer sees evidence in plain sight in a space where they are lawfully present, they have the legal right to seize that evidence. Depending on the circumstances, the evidence seized in plain sight may give an officer probable cause to search further.
4. Hot Pursuit
This is also referred to as exigent circumstances, which is simply an emergent situation. If police have reason to believe that there is someone in danger within the home, they can come into the home. Police can also enter a residence if they are following someone that they are pursuing for committing a felony.
5. Dangerous Weapon
If the police have reason to believe that someone inside the home has a dangerous weapon and plans on using it against them, police officers can search the premises.
Vehicular searches are legal when they are seizing evidence that can become unrecoverable while waiting on a warrant.
Although, you hope to never be in the position to have your person or property searched by the police, knowing when they are allowed to do so is valuable. There are instances where the police misuse their position and conduct unlawful searches and seizures. But there are also times when they are acting within the exception to the rule. Knowing what is lawful will help keep you safe and allow you to enforce your rights as a private citizen.