You have the right to privacy and enjoyment of your property. As such, having a stranger enter your home or car and conduct a search can be unsettling and even embarrassing. Even if the stranger in question is a police officer, the idea of them going through your stuff without the court’s approval is simply invasive.
While the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, there are certain instances when the police can actually conduct a search and seizure without a warrant.
Justifications for a warrantless search
Under the law, here are two possible reasons that police can search and seize your property without a warrant under the following circumstances:
1. When you consent
Your voluntary consent permits the police to enter and search your property without any other just cause or a warrant.
The validity of a consensual search can be scrutinized, however, and it may be deemed illegal if the person who gave consent to the search has no legal right to do so or you were somehow intimidated into giving your permission.
2. When there is an emergency
Sometimes, law enforcement can have probable cause to believe that someone is in danger or that a suspect is about to destroy crucial evidence. An example would be a situation where a person has been kidnapped or where a drug dealer is about to destroy evidence.
In these cases, law enforcement can access and search the home or car without a warrant or the subject’s consent.
A search warrant is an important component of the justice process. Find out how you can safeguard your rights while responding to a search warrant or a criminal charge.