Can you be searched without a warrant?

By Jonathan Blecher on June 28, 2022

The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures by the police. It states that law enforcement officials cannot legally search your home or belongings without a valid warrant. However, there are some exceptions.

The police can conduct a warrant-less but lawful search of you or your property in some cases. These are described below.

When the police have your consent

If you voluntarily agree to be searched without being unduly influenced or tricked into doing so, the police can conduct a legal search without a warrant.

However, only the person with a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area to be searched can provide consent. For instance, a landlord cannot provide consent to the police to search a tenant’s house.

Items in plain view

When evidence of a crime is visible to the police, they can conduct a search and seizure without a warrant. However, the police must have probable cause that the items are illegal.

Search incident to an arrest

If you are arrested for a crime, the police can search you for weapons (to protect themselves from danger) or evidence related to the crime. For example, if the police arrest you for drug possession, they can legally search you or your vehicle for additional drugs without a warrant.

Exigent circumstances can also lead to a warrant-less search

If there are credible reasons to believe that waiting for a court warrant would risk public safety or that evidence of a crime will be destroyed, the police can proceed to perform a search of a property.

Be aware of your rights

If the evidence against you was obtained through a search and seizure, but you are not sure if law enforcement officials violated your constitutional rights, you should get an informed evaluation of your case. It could be an excellent starting point for dealing with the charges you face.

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