When Do the Police Need a Search Warrant?

A search warrant is signed by a judge and details when and where police officers can conduct a search. For example, a warrant may give the suspect's address, give a time frame, and list the items to search for, such as cocaine, drug paraphernalia, and anything related to selling drugs. These would be the parameters of the officers' search. If the warrant only says they can search the house, they cannot go into the back patio. However, if officers see illegal weapons lying around when they are looking for cocaine, they are more than free to collect these as evidence. To get this warrant, the police must give the judge probable cause that the suspect committed a crime, and that they can find proof of this through a search.

The smallest amount of a controlled substance can land you with drug possession charges. Other criminal charges may be based on incriminating papers or weapons that the police found on you or your property. In many cases, criminal defense attorneys make a motion to suppress such evidence based on an illegal search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects you from unreasonable searches. This means that if a reasonable expectation of privacy is violated, then the search was illegal. Anything that is obtained through an unlawful search can be thrown out of your case, which means the prosecution cannot use it in their case. So how do you know if the police violated your constitutional rights when obtaining evidence against you? If the police were able to get a search warrant, then it is unlikely that the search is illegal. An experienced criminal defense lawyer may still be able to discover a violation though. But what if the police do not have a warrant? The legality of the search all depends on the circumstances.

The police do not need a search warrant if the person in charge of a property gives permission. Of course, this permission is invalid if it is given under duress or through deception. There is also the complicated issue of whether or not the person actually has the authority to allow a police search on those premises. Another circumstance when a warrant is unnecessary is when an object is lying "in plain view". For example, if some marijuana is lying in the front seat of a car, an officer is free to search the car and seize any illegal items.

Also, if someone is being arrested, officers can look for weapons to ensure their own safety. If a suspect yells out for an accomplice to burn something, the police can rescue the incriminating documents from being destroyed and keep them as evidence. They are also free to make a "protective sweep" of the premises during arrest, to make sure the area is safe. If they find contraband during this search, they have obtained it legally. A search warrant is not needed in an emergency either. For example, an officer may be helping someone after a car accident, to make sure that he or she is not hurt. If a bag of drugs slips out of the person's jacket, the police can seize this as evidence. If a chase leads an officer into the fleeing suspect's house, any illegal items they see in there can lawfully be used as evidence.

If you have been arrested and charged with any criminal offense, you need to take these seriously. An undeserved conviction can haunt you the rest of your life. Not only is your freedom threatened, but a criminal record can close the doors on a good job, a decent place to live, and more. When you are facing any criminal charge, you can find skilled and passionate attorneys at Hopper Law Firm. To find out if an illegal search and seizure is a defense in your case, please do not hesitate to contact our firm. Call a Raleigh criminal defense lawyer today.

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