Crime shows notoriously include scenes of police officers excitedly executing surprise searches of suspects’ property with a whole lot of busting down doors, yelling, and a smug expression on their faces, as if to say, “We’ve got you.” However, the drama of television doesn’t always translate to the real world. While some search and seizures may work like that, it is important to get the facts about when a police officer can and cannot conduct a police search on your home. Knowing this can ensure that you don’t face unlawful search.
In most cases, a police officer must obtain a search warrant in order to enter your home. A search warrant gets signed by a judge and only allows police officers to search a specific location at a specific time in the hopes of finding specific materials. For example, if police have probable cause that you have drugs in your house, they can try to get a search warrant to search your house (or a specific room in your house) between specific hours in search of the drugs.
Entering Your Home
If police officers come to your house with a search warrant, you should carefully read over it, as it will list the specific location that the police can search, what they hope to find, and how much time they can spend in your home. So, if the police have four hours to search your basement, you may ask them to leave once the four hours have passed. If the police have a warrant to search only your backyard, you don’t have to let them into your house. Finally, if the police are searching for drugs and they find an illegal weapon, they cannot seize the weapon. They can only take what is specified in the search warrant.
In some cases, police officers do not need a search warrant to search your property. One case where police officers do not need a search warrant is if you give voluntary consent for the police to search your property. Many people do not know that they have the right to refuse a search, so oftentimes, people will allow the police to search their property because they think that they have to. Keep in mind that unless the police have a search warrant you do not have to consent to a search of your property. If multiple people live in the same house or apartment, one tenant can agree to a search of common areas, but not the private areas of the other tenant(s) such as bedrooms.
Another exemption occurs if the search has a connection to an arrest. No warrant is needed for police officers to search for weapons or evidence while you are being arrested. For example, if you are arrested for murder, the police can search your property for the murder weapon or any other evidence that will prove that you committed the crime.
The bravado of crime shows does not mean that the police will bust into your home and tear everything apart as soon as they obtain a search warrant. If the police come to your house with a search warrant, read it carefully and make sure that the police follow the confines of the warrant. Remember that without a warrant you do not have to allow the police to search your property. For more information, it is a good idea to contact an attorney.