When Can The Police Conduct a Warrantless Search?

person with hands on side of car being looked at by an officer, police car with lights on in the back

In most cases, you can refuse a warrantless search. However, there are certain situations in which the police are not required to obtain a warrant before searching your property. Let’s go over four of the main reasons that police can make a warrantless search.

If the suspect consents to a search

Many individuals fear repercussions if they do not consent to a police search when asked. They may believe that saying no makes them automatically look guilty and that the police can conduct a search regardless of what they say. This is not the case.

Officers often ask leading questions like “You don’t mind if we take a look inside the vehicle, right?” to get your consent. If you agree to this, they can use any evidence collected during the search against you.

If the police ask for permission to search your property, calmly state “I do not consent to a search.” The officers may appear agitated by this but do not be intimidated. You are within your rights to refuse a search. If they ignore you and conduct a search anyway, it is illegal. Nothing collected during an illegal search can be used against you in court.

If evidence is clearly visible

Based on the Plain View Doctrine, police officers are allowed to search an area if, when they approach, there is evidence clearly visible. For example, a bag of drugs on the passenger seat of your car.

It is important to note that the police must have probable cause to believe that the evidence they see is illegal. They cannot point to any random item in your car and claim it is evidence as an excuse to conduct a deeper search.

If you are being arrested

The police are legally allowed to conduct a “protective sweep” while making an arrest. During this search, police can look for any accomplices, weapons that could be used to harm them, or seize any evidence that is in plain view.

If there is an immediate threat to the public

In extreme circumstances, the need to obtain a warrant is less important than protecting the public.
Some circumstances that justify a warrantless search include:

  • If a suspect is attempting to flee
  • If someone is going to be injured or killed
  • Preventing important evidence from being destroyed

Southern Oregon Defense

If you believe that you were a victim of an illegal search, contact The Law Office of Justin Rosas. We are passionate about protecting individuals from police misconduct. After going over the details of your case, we can provide guidance on the best course of action.