When Do Police Need a Warrant to Search Your Home?

reviewing legal paperwork

Were you aware that police do not always need a warrant to search your home or business? There are a number of factors that may justify the search of a property without the requirement of a warrant. For this reason, it is crucial that you know your rights in order to protect yourself against an unlawful search of your home.

The Fourth Amendment protects U.S. citizens from unlawful search and seizure. This means that an officer must have just cause in searching an individual’s home or business, which may include:

  • Probably cause the believe a crime was committed in the property
  • A valid arrest warrant for someone currently inside the home
  • An emergency situation Permission to enter
  • Permission to enter

Probable Cause

In the event that the officer believes there was a crime committed on the property, or a crime is about to be committed, there must be evidence of probable cause. This means the officer must have factual information or circumstantial evidence to give him or her cause to search a property. For example, if the office knocks on someone’s door and sees an illegal drug on the coffee table, he or she has probable cause to believe a drug crime has been committed in that home. In this situation, the officer had visual proof and was able to search the home without a warrant.

However, it is extremely important that any contraband used as probable cause is in plain sight. An officer may not, for example, enter a home without a warrant, search the property, and then find contraband and claim they had probable cause prior to entering the home.

Arrest Warrant

When the police have a valid arrest warrant for someone who committed a crime, they have a right to enter a home or business where the person in question may reside. If the officer sees any illegal activity or anything that incites probable cause while entering the home with an arrest warrant, they may proceed to search the property.

Emergency Situations

Anything that puts citizens in immediate danger, or threatens evidence inside a home or business may qualify as an emergency situation. For example, if there is a fire, police may enter a home without a warrant in order to help people inside.

Permission to Enter

Before an officer obtains written permission to enter, he or she must first explain why they wish to search the property. The homeowner or person in charge of the property should be informed that he or she does not need to permit a search. When an officer is permitted to search a property, he or she may take anything inside to be used as evidence, which the owner should be made aware of before he or she grants police permission to search.

If any of these factors do not apply, an officer must have a valid search warrant in order to justify lawfully entering the property. In the event that your home or business was searched, make sure the officer who searched your home conducted a lawful search. Did he or she provide you with the information necessary before the search began? Did he or she have a probable cause to enter in lieu of a warrant or written permission?

You have the legal right to privacy and protection, and if you feel the search of your home was in any way a violation of your rights, you may have a case.

For a free consultation contact The Law Offices of Daniel J Miller.

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