Search Warrant Exceptions
Police officers have an incredibly tough job to do at times. Some people call them heroes. But when they show up with a search warrant or turn on their lights to pull your car over, the last thing you are thinking is “these men and women are heroes.” There are certain steps you can take to make sure that these “heroes” do not overstep their boundaries and ruin your future.
In the United States, we have the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures from the government under the 4th Amendment. If an officer has a warrant, they they are free to search the areas listed in the warrant. While there are many exceptions, the most protected place under the 4th Amendment is a person’s residence. Whether that is an apartment or a house, that is where the most protections are found under the 4th Amendment.
There is a lesser amount of protection in a person’s car for a few reasons. The first is that the 4th amendment specifically says “houses” and a car is not considered a house. Second, a car and any evidence inside can easily be driven away and removed from a location. Third, officers are able to ask you to leave the car if they feel the need to do so for officer safety. Cars and residences are often searched, and some of the exceptions to the warrant requirement that allows them to do so are listed below:
If a police officer shows up to a person’s door and asks “to look around”, the person does not have any legal obligation to let the officers into their residence. Law enforcement usually needs a search warrant to show up to your house and search. If a person thinks that they have nothing to hide and want to voluntarily allow the police inside, by all means they have the freedom to do that. There is no legal obligation to let the police in unless they have a search warrant or an exception applies. Most people prefer to keep the police out of their house whenever possible, but if someone consents to let officers inside their own house then law enforcement is permitted to enter the residence.
If a fugitive runs into a person’s house and the police are in hot pursuit immediately behind the fugitive, the police are permitted to keep chasing the fugitive. Courts are not so rigid that they require officers to stop pursuing a suspect just because they run into a private residence.
Stop and Frisk. This exception allows an officer to stop a person as long as the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe that a person has committed or is about to commit a crime. Further, an officer is permitted to do a brief pat down if an officer reasonably believes that a person has a weapon. It is called a Terry Stop and is based upon the case law found in State v. Terry.
Anything that an officer can view in plain view to be contraband can give an officer the ability to seize the item. The fact that an item is clearly contraband gives the officer the ability to seize it. Depending on where the contraband is located, an officer may need to use that observation as a basis for a search warrant.
In plain terms, this just means an emergency. This gives officers an exception to the search warrant requirement in emergencies. This can include situations when a person’s safety is in jeopardy, or evidence is going to be destroyed. The exigency depends on the facts in a certain situation.
Search Incident to Arrest
This exception allows officers to conduct a search of a person if they are lawfully arrested. As long as the arrest is legal, they are permitted to search a person for drugs, guns, contraband, or anything that a person has in their possession.
The 4th Amendment guarantees us freedom from unreasonable search and seizures by the government. Sometimes it feels like the exceptions swallow the rule, but there are limited circumstances in which the officers can search without a warrant.
The listed information above is legal information and not legal advice. Every case is different. If you need to talk to an attorney about your specific criminal case in Toledo or the surrounding areas, please call 419-242-8214 for a free consultation.