Police Authority

Even though people in the United States are entitled to freedom from government intrusion, there is a limit to that privacy. Police officers are allowed, where justified, to search your home, car or other property in order to look for and seize evidence of a crime.

Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, police may engage in “reasonable” searches. For a search to be “reasonable,” law enforcement generally must have adequate reason to believe that evidence of a crime will be found there. This is referred to as probable cause. In many situations, the police must first make this showing to a judge, who will then issue a search warrant.

Once a search warrant is obtained, police may enter the identified location and search for the items listed in the warrant. Police may sometimes expand the search beyond the warrant’s specifications, such as when they spot obvious evidence of a crime in “plain view.”

When entering a home or business, police are allowed to ensure their own safety by briefly making a “protective sweep” to check whether any dangerous persons are on the premises.

Police may perform a search without a warrant if they have your consent to do so, but their search cannot extend beyond the consent that you provided. In addition, your consent must be voluntary so officers can’t coerce or trick you into giving consent for a search

Police can perform a search without a warrant if you don’t have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the area to be searched.

Police can perform a search without a warrant in urgent or emergency situations where there is no time to obtain one, also referred to as “exigent circumstances.”

Police can perform a search without a warrant if they’re in “hot pursuit” of a suspect who ducks into a private home or area to escape. This is another form of “exigent circumstances.”

When making an arrest, police don’t need a warrant to search the person and the immediate surroundings.

All police searches require warrants unless one of the exceptions to the warrant requirement applies (e.g., consent, exigent circumstances, plain view). It’s important to note that if evidence was obtained through an illegal search and seizure, prosecutors may be barred from using it against you in a trial. This is called the “exclusionary rule.” Additionally, the police may not use evidence resulting from illegal searches to find other evidence. This is known as the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine.

There are also limitations to when police may search your car and your person. Police may not search your vehicle unless there’s a reasonable suspicion that it contains evidence of a crime. Similarly, the police may not “stop and frisk” you unless they have a reasonable suspicion that you’re involved in criminal activity and that you may be armed and dangerous.

When a police search is illegal, the judge may toss out the evidence. If you’re facing charges, don’t waste a moment before speaking with an experienced attorney who will protect your constitutional right against unlawful search and seizure. Contact a qualified criminal defense lawyer near you today.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

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