Anyone who has seen a crime drama thinks they know about search and seizure. But, how much do you know about it? What would you do if someone showed up at your door right now and demanded to search your home? This is something you may think you are knowledgeable about, but TV isn’t real life. And not knowing what you are and aren’t obligated to can land you in jail.
Search and Seizure: Warrant
Yes and no. In general, an order is required. While there are circumstances where they are not, there are few. If someone asks to search your home, request a warrant. Without one, you are not required to let them in your home or search it. Any reason they need access to your home and what exception it pertains to will have to be stated and proven. If you have questions about an exemption they give, you can start here.
Search and Seizure: Without a Warrant
If you give consent. Police can ask to search your premises, but you do not have to feel obligated to allow them. They cannot use any authority to force their way into your home without consent or a warrant. Any demand they may express can be rejected. If you do not permit them, they cannot enter and search. So, if you ever answer the door and are asked, just say no. They will have to have a warrant, after that.
If an officer sees something in plain view that is illegal, they can seize it for evidence. For example, if you agree to let them into your home to talk and they see drugs, the police could use the drugs as evidence against you. This is why people always say that even if you have nothing to hide, it is best to ask for a warrant before allowing police into your home. If you need to talk to them, you can step outside or meet them elsewhere.
Should the police arrest you, they can search your home. This is mostly to make sure that there are no other persons that are a threat. But, this is also to prevent the destruction of any evidence that may pertain to your prosecution.
Exigent Circumstance is an exception that means obtaining a warrant could lead to the destruction of proof or could be a detriment to public safety. This tends to be relevant in “hot pursuit” cases.
In some cases, this extends to your vehicle. The courts consider your vehicle as an extension of your home and property. This also depends on the state you are in and the circumstances. A warrant would still be needed, and you are still under no obligation, without extenuating circumstances, without one.
State Vs. Rosario
This case is monumental because it shows that the circumstances leading to the arrest and any incrimination are relevant. The suspect was in a vehicle when an officer blocked her in, preventing her from leaving. He had a tip that she was committing an illegal act and had recognized her car. Also, he was aware of a prior arrest because he was the one who took her in. He approached the vehicle and asked for her documentation, which she provided. Through questioning, she had divulged that she was in possession of illegal narcotics. While she admitted use and even handed over the substance, the evidence and admission were suppressed. They were deemed inadmissible, and the case was a groundbreaking one. It showed that the order in which events occur and the underlying intentions could have an impact.
The officer blocking the vehicle gave him investigative detention. This means that he was able to retain her, to find out more about the crime. However, when he blocked her car, he wasn’t aware of the offense. And that was the action that gave him the investigation. So, the prosecution could not present a large portion of the evidence in the case. He didn’t have any evidence of illegal activity or any suspicion of it, before that. You can read more about the case here.
Defending Yourself From Illegal Search and Seizure
If an officer wants to search your home, call your attorney. You can find one here; they can come to you and be there to make sure you don’t miss, do or say anything that can cause problems later. They can tell you what to do and what to say. You will want to let the police know that your lawyer is on their way, that they should wait. If they will not, you will want to let your attorney know. It may be best to keep them on the phone the entire time so that they are aware of everything going on. Try to remain calm and know that you are in good hands. Your lawyer will be there to represent you and make sure that the police do not violate your rights.