If your home, car, or person is searched by the police, it is important that you understand your rights and whether or not evidence obtained against you can be used in court.
The idea of being stopped by the police and having your car or person searched, or having the police knock on your door with a demand to search your home, can be terrifying. Even if you have nothing to hide, being searched can feel like a major invasion of your privacy. If the police have received an anonymous tip, officers may be tempted to conduct a search. Here is what you need to know about search and seizure laws, and when you can lawfully be searched by the police.
When Police Officers Can Perform a Lawful Search
Just because the police have received a tip that provides them with information regarding the possibility that criminal activity is occurring does not mean that police can conduct a search. In fact, to conduct a search without certain conditions first being satisfied is a violation of an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights, found in the United States Constitution. Police officers can only perform a search that is lawful when:
- They have a search warrant. If police officers have a search warrant, they can conduct a search of the property that is listed in the warrant, but not any additional property not specified in the warrant (i.e. if the warrant is to search your home, police cannot then search your car). Police officers must show probable cause in order to obtain a warrant.
- They have consent. If you provide police with consent to search your vehicle, home, or person, then they have a right to proceed with the search. However, you should always refuse consent. Politely say, “I do not give my consent for you to search my vehicle or my home. I would like to speak to an attorney.”
- They have probable cause. Even if police do not have a warrant, they can conduct a search if they have probable cause to do so. Note that probable cause is a more stringent standard to meet than is reasonable suspicion. An example of probable cause may be seeing an open bottle of liquor within your vehicle during a traffic stop. This example would be categorized under what’s often referred to as “the plain view” doctrine.
- There are exigent circumstances. If there are exigent–or pressing, demanding, or emergency–circumstances at play, then police may be able to conduct a search without a warrant or probable cause or consent. For example, if the police believe that public safety is at risk, or that evidence may be destroyed if they do not conduct a search immediately, then they may have cause to proceed with a search.
Get Help from a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
If your home, person, or vehicle has been searched and evidence has been obtained against you that will contribute to a finding of your guilt, you need an attorney on your side. Your attorney can help you to understand your rights regarding search and seizure, and file the appropriate motions if evidence was unlawfully obtained. Call the New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at Lomurro Law today to learn more about how our lawyers can help.