What are your rights during a police search?


The police arrive at your front door after receiving a call. They ask if they can come inside but don’t have a warrant. The decision you must make is very important. Should you let them inside or refuse?

Many people believe they must always let law enforcement in. Most attorneys would advise you against allowing law enforcement to search in or around your home without a warrant. Be polite but say no and clearly refuse to give consent to a search. Why? You have a constitutional right under the Fourth Amendment against such practices.

If you give police consent to search your home, you are waiving your protection. With this consent, anything illegal or pointing to a crime found in the home can be taken as evidence and used against you in court.

The right to refuse a search without a warrant is one of the most important legal protections we have. If a police officer unlawfully searches your home, any evidence that is collected likely could not be entered as evidence against you in court.

Can police look into your property without a warrant?

Under certain circumstances, the police may look into your property without a warrant:

  • Open Fields:Police officers are allowed to look into a property in the same way that a private citizen could.  For example, if you are growing marijuana in your yard and plants can be seen from the sidewalk, police do not need a search warrant to view what is clearly visible to anyone.
  • Trash at the Curb:Police can search trash left out on the curb without a warrant. Trash left at the curb is considered abandoned property and subject to open access, including by law enforcement.
  • Fly Overs:Air space is generally considered public. As such, criminal activity observed by law enforcement from a helicopter, such as a field of marijuana plants, is not protected from a warrantless search.
  • Emergencies: Police do not need a search warrant to enter your home if they are responding to an emergency.  Many times, an experienced criminal attorney could argue that there was no emergency.

What are some things the police may not do?

Police cannot:

  • Use evidence against you that was obtained illegally. Any evidence that is collected illegally without a search warrant or other reasonable search may not be used against you as evidence or to justify further searches.
  • Coerce you into consenting to a search. Consent must clearly be consent (not reluctant coercion) and must be clearly given.
  • Pat you down or frisk you without probably cause. Police officers may not conduct a pat down without a having a valid reason to suspect you of criminal activity.
  • Search your vehicle without probable cause. An officer may only conduct a search of your car if there is probable cause to search for drugs, alcohol, or a weapon. A recent Supreme Court ruling allows a passenger compartment of your vehicle to be searched only if you were within reaching distance when the search was initiated.
  • Use a Drug Dog. Utilizing a drug dog is considered a search and requires a warrant.

What to do if you are charged with a crime?

If you have been charged with a crime resulting from a search of your home or vehicle, call an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Don Turner Legal Team for a case evaluation at 770-594-1777.

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