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Can Police Search My House without a Warrant?

Many people know that the police need to possess a warrant to search your home from watching cop shows and legal dramas on television. For the most part, they are correct.

The Fourth Amendment protects private citizens from unreasonable search and seizures. In order for a warrant to be issued, a judge needs to be presented with “probable cause” of either criminal activity or contraband at a place to be searched.

However, the following are specific circumstances in which a warrant is not required for the police to search your house:

  • Consent – If the individual who is in control of property consents to the search without being forced or tricked into doing so, a search without a warrant is legal. You must understand that the police do not have to tell you that you have the right to refuse a search, but you do.
  • Plain view – If an officer already has a right to be on your property and notices evidence of a crime or contraband that is clearly visible, that object can be lawfully seized and used as evidence in court.
  • Search incident to arrest – If you are being arrested in your home, law enforcement may search for weapons or other accomplices to protect their safety – also known as “protective sweep” – or they may also search to prevent potential destruction of evidence.
  • Exigent circumstances – Only used in emergency situations where the process of obtaining a valid search warrant could compromise public safety or could result in a loss of evidence.

So what should you do if the police show up at your front door to “just look around?” It is not in your best interest to deny them access since there may be justifiable circumstances which you are not aware of and you don’t want to risk being charged with interfering with a police investigation.

However, you must make it clear that you are not consenting to the search. Ask the law enforcement officials for their identification and have them explain why they are there and what they are looking for in the first place. Furthermore, document the details of the search, just in case you need them later.

For more information, contact our El Paso criminal attorney at the Law Offices of Ruben Ortiz today. Get nearly two decades of legal experience on your side!