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Search and Seizure

If you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime that involved a search and seizure, it is important to know your legal rights.

Contrary to what many people may believe, a legal search can take place without a warrant during various circumstances. Inaccurate assumptions about search and seizure law may be damaging to your criminal defense in court.

If you’re unsure whether the search leading to your arrest was legal, talk to a criminal defense lawyer. Speaking with a criminal defense attorney is a good way to learn about legal searches, calmly assess your charges and criminal rights, and determine if you have a valid defense.

Illegal Search and Seizures are Prohibited in the U.S. Constitution

While the Fourth Amendment in the Constitution forbids illegal search and seizures, it does not eliminate all searches. Consequently, a police officer may search if he or she has a reasonable belief that doing so will find evidence of a crime. In these instances where there is probable cause, a judge will issue a search warrant.

Search Exceptions to the Warrant Requirement

If there is no reasonable expectation of privacy or if certain exemptions apply, police may search without a warrant.

A reasonable expectation of privacy assumes that a warrantless search which invades one’s privacy is illegal. Here’s a good example. Let’s say an officer wanted to search for an item that was in a closed bag on the floor of your car but did not have a warrant. In this case, you would have a reasonable expectation of privacy because you left the item in a closed bag for a reason: so no one could see it. The police officer would consequently need a search warrant to search your car for the item.

Now if that item was lying in plain view on your front seat, there would be no reasonable expectation of privacy. A cop could then search without a warrant.

Warrantless Searches May Still Occur Even When There is a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy

A police officer may still conduct a warrantless search when a reasonable expectation of privacy exists if there is/are:

  • CONSENT: If you voluntarily agree to let the officer search your home, property, car or other items even when you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, then a warrantless search is legal. With that said, you do not have to volunteer to a search, nor does an officer have to tell you about this right.
  • INVESTIGORY STOP: A warrantless search may occur if the officer has a reasonable belief that a crime is currently happening or about to take place.
  • SEARCH INCIDENT TO ARREST: A warrantless search is also legal if you were validly arrested and the search was reasonably conducted.
  • EXIGENT CIRCUMSTANCES: If the situation requires quick action, like when there are injured people or dangerous persons on the property, an officer may search without a warrant.

One of the criminal defense attorneys in your area who sponsor Total Lawyers may further explain these exceptions to the warrant requirement during a free consultation.

Was Your Search Legal? Schedule a Free, No Obligation with a Local Criminal Defense Lawyer

Remember that you do not have to voluntarily consent to a warrantless search, and that doing so could open the door for law enforcement to find evidence which lead to a conviction.

As you can see, search and seizures can get quite tricky at times. That’s why you can speak with a criminal defense attorney who can look at the situations surrounding your search and seizure

Get started by calling 877-421-3761, or simply fill out our free, online case evaluation form. Once you do so, we’ll help you schedule a free, no commitment consultation with one of the criminal defense attorneys in your area who sponsor Total Lawyers.