The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. This requires the police to have a search warrant in order to enter a person’s home or living area. A search warrant specifically states in which areas the police may search and what items they can take. Usually, the police are allowed to search the entire house for illegal items. If the police find evidence of contraband or items purchased with illegal proceeds, they may seize these items.
The police cannot simply ask for a search warrant. They must follow a specific judicial process before a warrant is granted. The police are required to:
- Create an affidavit that describes the place to be searched and what items may be found
- Describe the evidence against a person for the purposes of obtaining a warrant
- Swear under oath that the details of the search warrant are correct
An impartial judge or magistrate must then agree that probable cause exists for the search warrant.
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Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirements
The police may enter a house without a search warrant if certain exceptions exist. The first exception is consent. A person who is living in the home may allow the police to search it. The person may stop the search at any time by revoking his or her consent. At that point, law enforcement would be required to get a search warrant.
Another exception exists if the person does not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the place to be searched. An example of this would be one’s garbage container.
If investigators violate a person’s Fourth Amendment rights by not obtaining a search warrant, then any evidence that they obtain cannot be used in a trial. This is called the exclusionary rule because this evidence is excluded from the trial.
The purpose of this rule is to prevent law enforcement personnel from engaging in unreasonable searches.
To further discuss police actions as they relate to a specific case, contact a criminal defense attorney at Madrid Law by calling 713-877-9400.