As Americans, the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants us all a certain level of freedom and privacy against unlawful search and seizure. On the other hand, their rights are not unlimited. However, there are some circumstances where law enforcement may search an individual’s home, vehicle, or other property to identify and seize criminal evidence, illegal contraband, or stolen goods. This article will explain exactly what the police can do during a search and what they cannot.
Law enforcement may legally do any of the following:
- Conduct a “reasonable” search on your property. According to the Fourth Amendment, the police may perform a search when it is deemed “reasonable.” Law enforcement must have a valid reason to suspect that an individual committed a criminal offense, also known as establishing “probable cause.” Without probable cause, they may only conduct a search with your consent or with a court-issued warrant.
- Search with your consent. If you give permission to police so they can search you or your property, which is considered consent. Inviting law enforcement in your home is enough to provide consent.
- Search beyond the bounds of a warrant. While search warrants are limited and only work in certain areas, the police may search beyond these restraints if they must protect the safety of others, discover that more evidence may be found close by, or prevent the destruction of evidence.
- Search when there is no “legitimate expectation of privacy.” If illegal items are left in “plain view” or when a person does not have a privacy interest in the evidence, the police may legally seize the evidence.
- Use firsthand intelligence or an informant. Law enforcement may use either their own intelligence or information obtained from a reliable informant to justify a search.
The following are things the police may not do:
- Search you without probable cause. If law enforcement does not have a valid reason to suspect that you committed a crime, they may not frisk you.
- Search your vehicle. If the police have probable cause to believe that you are armed or in possession of contraband, then they may search your vehicle. A suspect needs to be within reaching distance of the weapon or contraband at the time of the search.
- Coerce you into providing consent. Police cannot trick you into agreeing to a search.
- Use illegally obtained evidence against you. Any evidence that is collected by law enforcement during an illegal or unreasonable search is inadmissible in court.
If you have been arrested following a search in Michigan and believe that the police have done so illegally, our Okemos criminal defense attorneys at White Law PLLC are prepared to protect your rights and future. We can examine the circumstances surrounding your arrest and determine if an unlawful search or seizure took place.
Contact us at (517) 316-1195 and request a free consultation to discuss your legal options today.