If you are under investigation for a crime, the police will look for evidence from wherever they believe they can find it, including on your property. They may demand access to your home, car or any other property to do this.
In most situations, the police require a warrant from the judge before they can search and seize your property. After all, the Fourth Amendment protects U.S citizens against unreasonable search and seizure.
So when can the police conduct a search and seizure without a warrant?
While the law broadly protects citizens from unlawful search and seizure, certain circumstances allow law enforcement to enter your property without a warrant. Here are three of these circumstances:
The motor vehicle exception
Law enforcement does not need a warrant to search your vehicle if they have probable cause to believe that it was used to commit a crime or could be containing evidence of a crime. The rationale is that you can move the evidence in question while the police seek a warrant thus defeating justice.
The plain view exception
If the police are legally in an area and witness a crime in plain view, they will not need a warrant to arrest the perpetrator and seize any evidence relating to a crime. For example, if the police come to your door about a noise violation and they happen to notice a brick of cocaine laying on your coffee table through the open door, that’s evidence of a crime in plain view.
The consent exception
If you allow the police to come into your property and conduct a search, they will not need a warrant to do so. However, it must be clear that you have the mental capacity to give consent, and that you clearly understand the legal implications of allowing the police into your property.
Facing a criminal charge is a big deal. Knowing your legal options can help you protect your rights and interests when charged with a crime.