Saturday, August 3, 2013

Warrants, we don't need no stinkin warrants!

What constitutes a valid search warrant?

A valid search warrant must meet four requirements: (1) the warrant must be filed in good faith by a law enforcement officer; (2) the warrant must be based on reliable information showing probable cause to search; (3) the warrant must be issued by a neutral and detached magistrate; and (4) the warrant must state specifically the place to be searched and the items to be seized.

Can police conduct a search without a search warrant?

Yes. Under some circumstances, police are authorized to conduct a search without first obtaining a search warrant. Common exceptions to the warrant requirement include:
  • Consent. Police may conduct a search without a search warrant if they obtain consent. Consent must be freely and voluntarily given by a person with a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area or property to be searched.
  • Plain View. An officer may seize evidence without a warrant if an officer is on the premises lawfully and the evidence is found in plain view.
  • Search incident to arrest. While conducting a lawful arrest, an officer may search an individual's person and their immediate surroundings for weapons or other items that may harm the officer. If a person is arrested in or near a vehicle, the officer has the right to search the passenger compartment of that vehicle.
  • Exigent Circumstances. Police are not required to obtain a search warrant if they reasonably believe that evidence may be destroyed or others may be placed in danger in the time it would take to secure the warrant.
  • Automobile Exception. An officer may search a vehicle if they have a reasonable belief that contraband is contained inside the vehicle.
  • Hot Pursuit. Police may enter a private dwelling if they are in "hot pursuit" of a fleeing criminal. Once inside a dwelling, police may search the entire area without first obtaining a search warrant.

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