Thomas Carroll Blauvelt

Must the police have a warrant to search my property?

If you are under investigation for a crime, the police will focus heavily on obtaining as much evidence as they can to get a conviction. If they intend to conduct searches then they will most likely need a warrant to do this. After all, the Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable government overreach by way of illegal searches and seizures. 

However, not all criminal investigations are the same. There are instances when the police may not necessarily need a warrant to search and seize your property. But when exactly can this happen?

Understanding grounds for a warrantless search

Under the law, the police can actually search and seize your property without a warrant. Here are two instances when this might happen:

When you grant them permission to search your property – If you willfully consent to the search without being tricked or coerced, then the search in question will be valid. Keep in mind that the police are under no obligation to inform you about your right to refuse a warrantless search. Also, keep in mind that, if you have a roommate, then their consent will only be limited to the common areas like the kitchen and living room. In this case, a search that extends to your private space without your consent may be invalid. 

When the evidence is in plain view – the police do not need a warrant to retrieve contraband or evidence of a crime that is clearly visible. For instance, if the police respond to a domestic violence call in your home and see sachets of hard drugs on the table, they can seize and use such evidence against you.

Law enforcement can search and seize your property without a warrant under certain conditions. However, if you believe the search and seizure in question violated the law, you need to take proactive steps to assert your rights. 

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