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Search, Seizure, And Probable Cause

Law enforcement personnel have powers that can interfere with what many citizens think of as their "rights." While the US Constitution does provide us with valuable and hard-fought rights to privacy, those rights have to be balanced with the need for law enforcement to take action against apparent criminal activity. If you have been arrested because of a search of your property, you might have reason to feel that your rights have been violated. Read on to learn more.

Did They Have A Warrant?

There are several different kinds of warrants, such as arrest warrants and search warrants. If there is a warrant in existence for you or another occupant of your home or car then that trumps any perception of privacy. Law enforcement must still have good cause to believe that the person with the warrant is in the home or vehicle, however.

When law enforcement personnel arrive at your front door and request permission to enter and search, you have the right to refuse. Upon a refusal, they may inform you that you can expect them to return at a later time bearing a search warrant. In some cases, however, they can enter and perform a search with or without your permission.

Warrant-less Searches

The issue of probable cause is the determining factor in whether or not an officer has the ability to enter a dwelling without a warrant. Besides the pursuit of an offender with an arrest warrant, there are some cases where law enforcement officers have a right to enter without so much as a knock at the door. These instances are rare but do occur:

  1. While pursuing a person suspected of committing a crime, such as a fleeing perpetrator that runs into an innocent party's home.
  2. When the officer notes probable cause at the scene, such as spying a body on the floor through a window.
  3. When the officer has reason to believe that someone's life is in danger, such as hearing yells of "help, help."
  4. Seeing drug paraphernalia or evidence of open containers of alcohol in a vehicle.
  5. Seeing a vehicle that has been reported stolen parked in the driveway of a home.

Obtaining a Warrant

Just as with warrant-less searches, law enforcement must provide the judge with probable cause, or good reason, why a warrant should be issued. You might be surprised at the speed a warrant can be applied for and approved regardless of the time of day or day of the week. Every city in the nation has judges who are on-call to provide telephonic permission for law enforcement to do their jobs. This verbal okay must then be followed by a written affidavit.

Speak to a criminal defense attorney at a law firm like Daniels Long & Pinsel to learn more about your rights to search and seizure.