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Can Law Enforcement Search Me Without a Warrant?

Based on legal dramas on TV, many people are aware that police need a warrant to search your home or property. Since the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects private citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, these television programs are often accurate about that aspect of the law.

Additionally, nothing seized during an illegal search can be used as evidence in court, according to the exclusionary rule. As a result of the exclusionary rule, however, there are several exceptions to the warrant mandate that everyone should know.

The following are the four main circumstances in which a warrant is not needed for law enforcement to search your property:

  • Consent – If the person provides consent to the search without being tricked or coerced into doing so, a search without a warrant is legitimate. Remember, police are not required to inform you that you have the right to refuse a search, even though you do.
  • Plain view – If an officer has the right to be in your home and notices contraband or evidence of a criminal offense that is visibly apparent, the item may be lawfully seized to be used as evidence.
  • Pursuant to arrest – If you are being arrested in your home, law enforcement officers are allowed to search your home for any weapons or accomplices to protect their safety. This is also known as a “protective sweep.”
  • During an emergency – As with many legal provisions, there is an exception for emergencies. If someone’s health or life is in danger, or law enforcement officers are in “hot pursuit” of a suspect, then they can search the house as part of that investigation.

In conclusion, if there is no warrant and the circumstances do not involve one of the four dynamics mentioned above, police are not permitted to conduct a search. If something seems out of the ordinary, even after you politely decline to be searched, always tell your attorney.

For more information, contact a Riverside criminal defense attorney at Blumenthal & Moore today.
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