When do the police need a search warrant?

by | Oct 18, 2016 | Felonies, Firm News

Fourth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution are twofold. First, it protects your right to privacy at home. It also protects you from unreasonable and arbitrary governmental intrusions. It provides that the “[t]he 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 on probable cause supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Warrantless searches of the person

If a police officer has a reasonable suspicion that a person has committed a criminal act, the officer is permitted to stop that person. If that police officer has reason to believe that the person he or she stopped might be carrying a weapon, a frisk is also allowed. A person might be suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, and refuse breath or urine tests, but a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision held that blood testing is a search of the person, and a search warrant is required before blood can be drawn to determine his or her blood alcohol level.

Search warrant requirements

To obtain a search warrant, a police officer must show a judge that there is probable cause that a search will uncover the fruit of a crime or other evidence that will be a pivotal influence in obtaining a plea or verdict of guilty. Officers must specify what they want to search and what they’re looking for. However, in some cases, a warrant is not required to perform a search, including:

  • Exigent circumstances when it is imperative to act and not practical to obtain a search warrant
  • If the suspect consents to the search
  • Searches conducted following an arrest
  • Searches conducted during traffic stops-generally the police may search the glove compartment or interior of the car without a warrant

Courts look to the moment that a police officer made a search or seizure without a warrant to determine whether at that time, there was sufficient urgency at the scene to make it necessary to act and unrealistic to try and obtain a warrant.

Police are well aware of the law of searches and seizures with and without a warrant. If you were arrested and believe that your Fourth Amendment rights were violated, it is imperative to obtain the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney right away to ensure that your rights are protected.


FindLaw Network