As American citizens, we are granted a certain level of freedom and privacy
against unlawful government intrusion under the Fourth Amendment to the
United States Constitution. With that being said, these freedoms are not
unlimited. Under certain circumstances, the police may search a person’s
home, vehicle, or other property in order to identify and seize illegal
contraband, stolen items, or criminal evidence. But what exactly can the
police do during a search, and what are your rights?
The police may legally do any of the following:
Perform a “reasonable” search of your property: The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution dictates that the
police may perform a search when it is considered “reasonable.”
To satisfy this element, the police must have a valid reason to suspect
that a person is guilty of wrongdoing, known as “probable cause.”
Without probable cause, the police may only perform a search with a court-issued
warrant or your consent.
Search when there is no “legitimate expectation of privacy”: The police may legally confiscate evidence or illegal items which are left
in plain view or when a person does not have a privacy interest in the
items or evidence without a “search” ever legally occurring.
For example, if a person leaves a bag of heroin on the hood of their car,
the police may seize it without contest.
Use an informant or firsthand intelligence: The police may use either their own intelligence or information gained
from a reliable informant to justify a search.
Search with your consent: The police may perform a search of your property without a warrant or
probable cause if you consent to the search. Inviting the police into
your home is often sufficient to be considered “consent.”
Search beyond the bounds of a warrant: Although search warrants are limited and are only valid for a specific
area, the police may search beyond these limits if necessary to protect
the safety of others, prevent the destruction of evidence, or if evidence
suggests that further evidence may be found nearby.
Things the police MAY NOT do include:
Use illegally obtained evidence against you: Any evidence that is gathered by the police during an illegal or unreasonable
search may not be used to your detriment. Likewise, any illegally obtained
evidence cannot be used to justify further searches.
Coerce you into consenting to a search: Consent for a search must be expressly given, meaning the police cannot
trick you into agreeing to a search.
Frisk you without probable cause: If the police do not have a valid reason to suspect that you are guilty
of criminal activity, they may not pat you down during a “stop and
Search your vehicle: Generally speaking, the police may only search your car during a traffic
stop if they have probable cause to believe you are armed or in possession
of contraband, such as drugs. According to a recent Supreme Court ruling,
the passenger compartment of your vehicle may only be searched if you
were within reaching distance of it at the time of the search, or if the
police have a reason to believe that the vehicle contains evidence related
to the arrested offense.
Arrested? Contact Naegle & Crider PLC
If you have been arrested following a search and believe that the police
have violated your rights, contact the knowledgeable Mesa criminal defense
lawyers at Naegle & Crider Criminal Defense Attorneys today. Our team
of aggressive advocates can examine the circumstances surrounding your
arrest and determine if an unlawful or seizure occurred.
Call (480) 418-0776 today to discuss your legal options in full detail.