If your home is searched for drugs, do not panic. The assistance of a savvy attorney will make this unfortunate event that much less dramatic and worrisome. Let’s take a quick look at the nuances of such searches and your best course of action.
The Basics of Property Searches for Drugs
Police officers are typically limited to searching the homes of those who consent to such a search. However, there is a chance someone else on the property will give consent for the police to look around. In general, police officers must have a warrant to search a property for drugs. Otherwise, most courts will decide the search is illegal. For the most part, evidence obtained through an unreasonable search will not be admissible in court. However, there are some exceptions to the requirement of a warrant for a home search. As an example, an individual who appears to have authority and provides consent for a search to be conducted creates a legal loophole for police to take a look around the property without a warrant.
The 4th Amendment
The United States Constitution’s 4th Amendment provides protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The language of this amendment specifically points out United States citizens are provided the right to privacy unless there is probable cause of illegal activity and police obtain a warrant. The warrant must describe the area to be searched and what is to be seized. This means the police are required to obtain written permission from the court in order for the search of a property or person to be legal. Furthermore, no evidence can be seized unless the warrant is obtained.
Though most people are aware of the general protections provided by the Constitution, many are unaware that police and other authorities are not permitted to search their property unless they have a search warrant as detailed above.
The Definition of a Warrant
In order to fully understand the rules for search and seizure, it will help to define what a warrant is. Warrants are legal orders provided by judges to authorize police to search a specific property or person and seize certain items at a specific time. As an example, a warrant might specify police are allowed to search 4050 Jefferson St. in New Orleans, Louisiana for cocaine between the hours of 9 AM and 7 PM.
It is up to the police to persuade the judge through sworn statements that there is probable cause or at least a reasonable belief that a crime has occurred. Otherwise, the police will not have solid legal footing to obtain a warrant and conduct a search of a specific place for evidence of a crime. The police are required to provide their own evidence in order to obtain the warrant. The targeted suspect will not be aware of the warrant at the time of the issue. Furthermore, the police are limited to searching the exact location noted in the warrant, be it a house, a vehicle or an exact outdoor location. As an example, if the warrant specifies police are to search a home’s front yard, they cannot also search the interior of the home or the suspect’s automobile. Only the specific items noted in the warrant can be searched for.
Exceptions of Note
As noted above, if someone on the property who appears to have authority consents to the search, the police might be able to get away with searching the property detailed in the warrant and seizing the items noted in the warrant. There are some instances in which police can conduct a search without a warrant. If police have probable cause in the form of something like a gunshot ringing out from a room in the home, a suspect’s sudden movement or a suspect who flees, an ensuing search can be legal even without a warrant. Furthermore, if a property owner freely consents to such a search without coercion, the police can look through the space without a warrant.
If there is an arrest, police are not required to obtain a warrant to conduct a search. The police will perform such a search as it is a means of self-protection. They will search for weapons, criminal accomplices and evidence. The Plain View Doctrine states police officers are allowed to legally search a space and take evidence if it is in plain sight. As an example, if a police officer who observes an illegal act taking place outside of a home, he or she is empowered to conduct a search and seize evidence from the space without a warrant.
Contact Our Attorney
If your home has been searched for drugs or anything else, do not attempt to fight the legal battle on your own. Reach out to our legal team right away. We will explain your rights, develop a legal strategy and do everything in our power to clear your name.