May Police Search Property Without a Warrant?

If all of your knowledge of the duties of police comes from pop culture like movies and television, you may not have a very clear understanding of how and when police may search your property. This is especially true when it comes to whether police need a search warrant to perform a search.

In general, police may not search your personal property without a search warrant, but there are several key exceptions. If you recently received criminal charges based on police search and seizure that you suspect was not conducted properly, it is wise to look carefully at the circumstances of your arrest to determine if police violated your rights.

If so, you may have grounds to object to the charges. An experienced attorney can guide you as you examine your charges, helping you build a strong legal defense to keep your rights and privileges secure. It is also important to begin building your defense as soon as possible, even if you are not entirely sure which legal strategy to use. The longer you wait to begin building your defense, the fewer legal options you may have.

Police do not always need a warrant

In some circumstances, police do not need a warrant to perform a search of a person’s property. If you have objections to the police interpretations of these allowances, be sure to carefully assess your experience through the eyes of the law.

Most commonly, police may search a person’s property without a warrant if the search is within the scope of an arrest. For example, if an officer arrests you on suspicion of public intoxication, he or she may probably search your person and the area around you, such as your car.

Similarly, if there is evidence of a crime “in plain view” during an interaction with a police officer, he or she may reasonably search your immediate surroundings. This may mean that an officer has grounds to search your vehicle if you have drug paraphernalia visible in the backseat of your vehicle, but it does not mean that an officer may search underneath your seats without any reason to believe that evidence of a crime is there.

Police may also search your property without a warrant if you give them your permission. In some cases, you may not realize that you are giving your permission, or may not realize the full extent of the permission you give, which is not easy to navigate. If an officer asks to search your vehicle or other property, it is always acceptable to say that you do not consent. If the officer does not need your permission to perform the search, he or she is unlikely to ask you in the first place.

Finally, police may sometimes search property without a warrant in the event of an emergency. This one can prove particularly complicated, especially if you and your arresting officer have differences of opinion about what constitutes an emergency.

Defend your rights with the strength of the law

In the event that you receive unfair charges based on illegal search and seizure by police, you may have grounds to seek dismissal of the charges. Be mindful to carefully consider all the legal actions you can take to make sure that you do not miss out on important opportunities to protect your rights and the rights of many others who suffer from unfair police tactics.


Have you been charged with a crime? See our Criminal Defense service page for help now.

Have you been charged with a crime? Contact Levine Law.

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