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Search Warrant

Can the Police Search My Home Without a Warrant?

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Can the police search my home without a warrant? Anyone who is familiar with the U.S. Constitution would emphatically say no to this question, as the Fourth Amendment protects private citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. The amendment reads:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Under the Fourth Amendment, police officers must obtain written permission from a court of law to legally search a person and his or her property and seize evidence while they are investigating possible criminal activity. However, many individuals under the pressure of the police may not be aware of this rule or their other rights under the Fourth Amendment. In addition, there are cases in which police can legally search without a warrant if probable cause is established or if consent is given by an individual.

2014 Supreme Court Ruling Made it Easier for Police to Search Your Home

On February 25, 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision ruled that although a man insisted that agents not search his home without a warrant, the agents were able to enter into the home as they were able to get permission from his girlfriend.  The court held that police could search a home without a warrant, even if the suspect has objected, as long as he is no longer at the scene and a co-tenant gives consent.

In the past, the Court described the protection against home searches as the “very core” of the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.  In the continuing erosion of this right, now any occupant can “grant permission” to a law enforcement officer — even in the face of one person insisting otherwise.  This means that any person with whom you share your home can give consent to search your home.

How You Can Avoid Deceptive Search Practices

Given this new interpretation of Fourth Amendment rights, it is critical that individuals know their rights when dealing with the police.  As a criminal attorney for over 20 years, I’ve defended several clients who were the misled by law enforcement officials by the following deceptive search practices:

1)    Police informing parents that a defendant is only a witness and has agreed to the search.

2)    A spouse being told by police that if a search is not permitted, the Department of Children and Family Services will be called.

3)    Statement by police that a warrant is not required, and if there is cooperation a reduction of the charges will be recommended.

These are just a few of the many examples I’ve encountered.  Finally, it is important to realize that any statement or promise can be denied as ever made, later.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you to understand your rights with respect to communicating with law enforcement officers.   (For more information on the Fourth Amendment and privacy rights, read my recent blog post on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act).  If you have been the victim of what you believe to be misleading search practices, we’d love to hear from you.

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