When looking into a suspected criminal offense, police officers focus heavily on gathering enough evidence to convict the potential criminal of a crime. It is required by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution that police officers either have a search warrant or subsequent permission to search a piece of property. More often than not, police officers can get creative on how to spot potential evidence in a criminal case even without an adequate search warrant.
The Fourth Amendment protects people against “unreasonable” searches and seizures by law enforcement. This blog briefly outlines when police can reasonably search you and your house and how to challenge a possible unreasonable search in court. A knowledgeable attorney could also explain to you what your rights are during a police search and help you understand your legal options in the case of an unreasonable search.
A search warrant is an order by a judge that authorizes police to search for specific items at a particular place and time. To obtain a search warrant, officers must convince a judge that they have probable cause to believe that criminal activity is occurring at the place to be searched or that evidence of a crime might be found there. A warrant is simply a permission slip for a search signed by a judge. Search warrants can still be challenged in court, but they are generally presumed to be lawful.
Can the police really just search your property without permission or a warrant? You have the basic right to the expectation of privacy in your own home. Your right to privacy is one of the reasons why officers cannot come barreling in and look through your private items within your own home.
The expectation of privacy applies to any part of your outdoor space that you treat as an extension of your home, such as a deck, patio, or garage. Any outdoor space that you treat like the inside of your home and that is not immediately in the viewpoint of those still on public property has the expectation of the right to privacy.
If you learn about a police officer searching any part of your property without your permission or a warrant, you could potentially challenge the search or any evidence gathered, and it may be deemed an unlawful and unreasonable search.
One major key to challenging an unreasonable search is the “Exclusionary Rule.” A defendant might challenge the introduction of evidence in a criminal case based on the argument that the evidence was found during an unreasonable and unconstitutional search. For instance, the defendant might argue that the officer did not have a warrant when conducting the search and no exception to the warrant requirement justified the search. In court, the defendant would make a motion to suppress (exclude) the evidence. If the court agrees the search was unreasonable, the evidence seized (and any evidence that is derived from it) cannot be used against the defendant at trial.
If you do not fully understand what the police can and cannot do without violating the law or your civil rights, it will be hard for you to stand up for yourself when dealing with the police investigation or pending criminal charges.
You have the right to be free from unreasonable searches by the police. It’s best to consult with an experienced lawyer before consenting to any search.
If the police have searched you and you are facing criminal charges, talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys at BK Law Group could construct a robust defense and ensure that your rights are protected. Call today to discuss your case with an experienced legal professional.