If the police enter your home without a warrant and the situation does not match any of the above circumstances, you may be the victim of an unconstitutional search and seizure.
Police may enter a property if it is not secured by a fence or other installation. In order to enter a house, the police generally require an arrest warrant for its denizen(s). However, a warrant of removal does not permit the police to enter a house against its owner’s wishes.
If the process of obtaining a valid search warrant affects public safety or results in the loss of evidence, the police may enter your home without a warrant. In most cases, the police cannot enter your home unless you have a warrant signed by a judge, but there are times when the police do not need a warrant to search you.
In some situations, such as when suspects cannot destroy evidence, the police may search and confiscate your property in your home without a warrant. If the police think your car contains evidence of a crime, it may be searched without a warrant and without your consent. Although in many cases the police can search your vehicle without a warrant (the “vehicle exception”), there are a few restrictions. Generally not, unless you or someone in your home agrees to a search, or if the police are “chasing” the suspect.
Police Can Occasionally Arrive without a Warrant
In some cases, the police may show up without a warrant, if you invite them (the “consent” to the search), the collected evidence may be allowed, so it’s best to politely decline it. If the police do not have a warrant and they continue to search, it is important that you make it clear that you do not agree, but do not physically resist either. If the police don’t have a warrant, you don’t have to let them in or answer any questions. If the police need to break into your property to look at evidence they want to use in court, they usually need a search warrant to do so.
In most cases, the police must obtain a search warrant to enter your property looking for evidence of criminal activity. For example, if a search warrant requires you to search a bedroom and kitchen, police cannot legally enter other parts of the house or a car parked on the property to conduct a search.
A search warrant gives the police the legal right to enter the premises without the owner’s permission to search the evidence listed in the search warrant where the warrant allows. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires police to have a search warrant or subsequent authorization to search property.
You Can Question the Police and Their Intentions on Your Property
If you find that the police have searched any part of your property without your permission or a search warrant, you may question the search or any evidence collected, which may be considered an unlawful and unreasonable search.
For example, a police officer who is in a common area but easily sees something incriminating in your yard might cite that evidence to support a search warrant on your home (and yard). If police see clearly visible evidence or contraband while searching your property, they may seize that evidence without a warrant. If you are arrested in your home or car, the police have the power to search your property for weapons or accomplices to keep them safe.
If the police suspect that the driver or passengers are carrying weapons, they can legally search the vehicle. Officers may ask you to get out of the vehicle and separate passengers and drivers from each other to ask them questions and compare their answers, but no one is required to answer any questions. With your car, you have fewer requirements for personal privacy because you are likely to use your car to travel on public roads and an agent may search your car for a probable reason.
For example, if the police pull you over and smell marijuana coming from your car, they may search any part of your car for evidence.
Police May Search to Prevent Tampering with Evidence
In addition, the police may conduct extensive searches to stop evidence from being destroyed, look for evidence that is outside the scope of the original search warrant because their initial search indicated that there may be additional evidence elsewhere on the premises, or find additional evidence based on what’s in sight. Visual, auditory, or even olfactory evidence of an ongoing crime may give the police a reason to search your home.
If the police are after a person who has broken the law and that person enters your property, law enforcement can follow them to your property and find the person. Once a person has been arrested by the police, law enforcement may conduct a search of the person and their immediate environment for weapons that could be dangerous to officers or others.
Usually, before entering a house to arrest someone, the police must obtain a warrant and tell them who they are and why they want to enter. In emergency situations where waiting for a warrant could endanger public safety or result in the loss of evidence, the police have the right to break into and search your property. Items locked in a room cannot be unlocked for the purpose of being searched without a special warrant.
While the police have “probable reasons” to believe that something illegal is going on in your home, the Fourth Amendment requires the police to obtain a search warrant, signed by a judge, to lawfully enter and search your home. If you believe you are being searched or illegally searched, never take any physical action to thwart the police as you will most likely be arrested and charged with obstruction of justice and they will complete the search anyway.