If you’re like many people, you’re a little bit unclear about your rights when it comes to police searches.
Do you ever have the right to tell police they can’t search your property or your person? If you do, will they just assume you’re guilty and arrest you?
Do You Have to Let Police Search Your Property?
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. However, it seems as if sometimes “unreasonable” is subjective—and every situation is different.
The Fourth Amendment says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
It’s pretty clear that unless police have probable cause to believe that you’re involved in some type of criminal activity, they’ll have to ask (and receive) your permission to search your property or your body.
You have the right to refuse random police searches (when you’re crossing a border checkpoint or entering a secure area, like an airport, those searches aren’t random).
Random searches are different from warranted searches. Sometimes police get a judge to authorize a search without your consent; they’ll have a warrant that allows them to search your property or you without your permission. You don’t have the right to refuse those types of searches.
Why You Should Refuse Police Requests to Search You or Your Property
Because every case is different, it’s important that you use your best judgment if you’re refusing a police search. Remember, you have the right to refuse; it’s up to you to decide when to exercise that right.
Police know that they must have probable cause to search you or your belongings, which means that if you refuse to give them permission, they’ll have to prove in court that they had that probable cause. In some cases, refusal to give consent may result in police backing down—particularly if they don’t have probable cause.
If you agree to a search, know that whatever police find can (and will) be used against you in court. Even if police stop and frisk you because they think you have marijuana and they find something completely different, such as an unregistered weapon, you can bet that they’ll charge you with a crime.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you need legal help in Chicago, Skokie, Schaumburg or any of the surrounding communities, call a Chicago criminal defense lawyer right away at 847-920-4540 or contact us online. Whether you agreed to a police search or not, we’ll be happy to evaluate your case and give you guidance that helps you get the best possible outcome.