Defending You Is Our Job

When can police officers skip securing a search warrant?

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides specific protections for citizens. This amendment sets the standards for searches and seizures. Most of the time, law enforcement officers need a warrant before they can conduct a search/seizure of a person or their property lawfully.

With that said, several exceptions enable police officers to conduct searches and seize evidence without having to obtain a warrant. Understanding these exceptions is crucial for the public to know if their rights are being upheld or violated in this regard.

Consent to search

Consent can provide an exception for search warrant requirements. This must be given freely without any persuasion by police officers. Law enforcement doesn’t need a warrant if the person with lawful authority over the area agrees to the search. The search is limited by the consent provided, so if a person limits the search to a specific area, that’s the only area that can be searched.

Plain view doctrine

A police officer who can see contraband or evidence of a crime can seize those items as long as the officer is in the location lawfully. No warrant is needed in these cases. For example, if an officer sees drugs on a living room table when a person in the home answers the door, they can typically seize the drugs.

Search incident to arrest

Police officers can search a person when they’re arrested. They can also search the immediate surrounding area without a warrant. This is so they can disarm the suspect and preserve evidence.

Exigent circumstances

Exigent circumstances occur when law enforcement believes the immediate situation could lead to a person fleeing, evidence being destroyed or people being hurt. When this is the reason for a warrantless search, the burden to show exigent circumstances is on the prosecution.

The presence or absence of a warrant can have a significant impact on an individual’s criminal defense. Evidence seized without a warrant when one was necessary can potentially be excluded from the case. This is just one of the reasons why seeking legal guidance to craft a personalized defense strategy is important when an individual is facing charges of criminal wrongdoing.

FindLaw Network