Do Police Need a Warrant to Search Your House - Matt Fakhoury

Do police need a warrant to search your house?

Sometimes – but in many cases, police can barge right into your home and begin searching for contraband or evidence that they can later use against you. In fact, most searches occur without a warrant. Police can search your house without your consent if:

  • You provide your consent
  • Evidence is in “plain view”
  • You are arrested
  • Police worry that the time it would take to get a warrant would jeopardize public safety or result in the destruction of evidence

When Police Need a Warrant… And When They Don’t

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution 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.

Consent to a Police Search

When a police officer knocks on your door and says, “Can I come in and have a quick look around?” your first instinct is probably to say, “Sure – come on in.”

You don’t have to do that. When a police officer asks you for your consent, it means he or she probably doesn’t have any evidence that would justify getting a search warrant… but that he or she suspects you have contraband or evidence of a crime.

The Plain View Doctrine

The Plain View Doctrine says that if police see evidence that’s clearly visible, they’re allowed to legally search an area. Even if they see an illegal act occurring outside your home, they may be allowed to search your home without a warrant.

Example:

You’re having a party and a police officer comes to the door. When you answer, the cop looks over your shoulder and sees underage minors drinking or people of any age smoking marijuana. Those things are illegal, so the police officer doesn’t need your consent to come in and search your home.

Search Incident to Arrest

If police arrest you for a crime, the police can search your home (or your person, or your car) for additional evidence. They can also search for evidence that could be destroyed or accomplices to the crime. The things police find in that search can be used against you in court.

Example:

The police arrest you for using drugs, so they pat you down and see if you have additional drugs on you. They can also search for additional drugs in your car or in your home.

Exigent Circumstances

If police officers believe that in the time it would take to get a warrant, you or someone else could destroy evidence – or there’s a public safety hazard – they can search without a warrant. An officer’s responsibility to arrest suspects, protect others and preserve evidence is more important than getting a search warrant in that case.

Do You Need to Talk to Your Lawyer About Evidence Turned Up During a Police Search?

If you need to talk to an attorney about searches and evidence, and whether cops need a warrant to search your home, call us right away at 847-920-4540 for a free case review. We may be able to help you.

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