What is a Constitutional Amendment Says?
The Fourth Amendment protects citizens against the government’s unconstitutional searches and seizures. A warrant is required to search an American citizen. This brings up the issue of whether police in California may search without a warrant. In cases when certain conditions are met, the answer is “yes.”
The Meaning of a Warrant
A warrant is a court order which permits law enforcement to enter and search a building or person and possess specified items. Law enforcement must first persuade a court, via sworn testimony, that they have probable cause or a sensible suspicion that a crime has occurred to get a warrant to search a specific location for evidence of a crime. The suspect is usually not present when the warrant is granted, and the police will provide evidence to support the request. When officers get a search warrant, they are only allowed to search the premises, vehicle, or area stated in the warrant.
When can a search be done without a warrant in California?
As part of a criminal investigation, the police do not have the right to search anywhere they want. Police usually must go before a judge to get a search warrant and show that they have a good reason to do so. All members of the California State Police must respect the rights of each person. Still, there are some exceptions.
Here are four situations where police might be able to search a suspect without a warrant:
- Consent: If you grant police enforcement permission to search your house, whatever evidence they uncover is in the public sphere and may be used in court. Most of the time, the police will knock on your door and ask you to search without first informing you of your constitutional right to reject. You also have the legal right to decline and should use this privilege. Police cannot search your personal belongings if you or anybody living there permits them to search just the communal sections of the house, such as the living room or kitchen.
- Plain view doctrine: According to the “Plain View Doctrine,” a search warrant is not required if an officer can see evidence of a crime without further investigation. Take the hypothetical scenario of getting a speeding ticket. Even if the police officer has no other reason to suspect drunk driving, they have probable cause to pull you over if they find an open alcoholic beverage in the cup holder.
- Search During Arrest: In the event of an arrest, police officers are not required to get a warrant before searching. Police have the right to search a suspect lawfully detained for weapons, evidence that might be destroyed, and possible co-conspirators if they reasonably believe they are in danger. If you are caught for drug possession, police have the right to search you, your house, and your vehicle for any other narcotics; any evidence discovered may be used against you in court. The police may also conduct a “protective sweep” after making an arrest. The authorities will do this if they think that a dangerous accomplice or accomplices are hiding there. The law allows the police to wander around a building and look in any possible hiding spots for suspects. The police may lawfully confiscate any evidence in plain sight during the sweep.
- Exigent Circumstances: The police may enter your home and search it without a warrant if there is an emergency, a danger to public safety, or if they believe that any delay might result in the loss of evidence. If someone passing by your home hears cries for help or other distress signals, including the sounds of sobbing and wailing children, they may have a right to investigate.
There are limits to each of the four exceptions that permit warrantless searches. In most cases, law enforcement officials are expected to go to court to get a warrant. As unfortunate as it is, unlawful searches and seizures continue to be a major issue in the Golden State of California. You might have legal defenses if you were subjected to an unlawful search. If police search without a warrant, the evidence they find may be thrown out of court. If you’re facing criminal charges, hiring an attorney to defend you is a must.
- Related Articles:
- Can the Police Search Your Car Without Permission in California?
- Are You a Victim of an Illegal Search and Seizure in California?
- Can You Legally Record the Police?
- Can the Police Search My Device or Computer Drive?
- Can Police Search Your Trash Without Infringing On Your Rights?
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Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Attorney who has over 21 years of practice defending a variety of cases.