Warrantless Searches in California

According to the U.S. Constitution, the government cannot abuse its power and conduct a warrantless search of your personal property. The country’s founders had the foresight to know that no member of law enforcement should have too much power over a person.

You must know your rights when it comes to warrants and talk to a California criminal defense attorney if you’re being charged for a crime.

The Fourth Amendment protects people from warrantless or “unreasonable” searches and seizures. As designated in the Constitution, unreasonable searches mean that the search is lacking the proper criteria to qualify as legal.

In some circumstances, a police officer does not need a warrant to search you, your car or your home. An example of this is if there is probable cause. For example, if you’re pulled over for speeding and the officer smells illegal drugs or sees drug paraphernalia in the passenger seat of your vehicle, that could give the officer probable cause to search your vehicle further.

What Does the Fourth Amendment Outline?

You have rights regardless of who you are and previous criminal convictions. Knowing these rights can help set you up for better success should you be the subject of a criminal investigation.

The Fourth Amendment has come into question in several U.S. Supreme Court cases. One of the most notable is People v. Lange. In this case, a driver was intentionally blaring music from his car and honking his horn. Both of these were violations of the law and considered misdemeanors.

A law enforcement officer observed this behavior and followed the driver to his home. Near the driver’s home, the officer put on his lights and tried to pull the driver over. However, the driver did not pull over. Instead, the driver proceeded to his garage and tried to close it to keep the officer out.

The officer got out of his car and tried to keep the man from closing the garage. This constituted a warrantless search. Once the case went to court, the defendant argued that the police officer had no probable cause to conduct the warrantless search of his home.

However, in this case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the officer because the officer actually did have probable cause. Because the driver chose not to pull over when the officer turned on his lights, the officer had witnessed the driver committing a crime by avoiding the officer.

This made the warrantless search permissible in this case. But had the officer not observed such behavior, keeping the man from closing the garage would have been a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

How Knowing Your Rights Can Help Criminal Cases

Regretfully, police officers do not always protect people’s rights. To catch people and make their cases against these people easier, officers stretch the rules or outright disobey them.

By knowing your rights, you can avoid becoming a victim of such overstepping from law enforcement. And, you’ll know it’s time to call a lawyer to help you fight for your rights and avoid a warrantless search.

If law enforcement oversteps their boundaries, know that you still have the right to remain silent, and should do so. No matter what incriminating evidence the officer finds, you should not make a statement. Your attorney can likely make that evidence inadmissible in your court case but you don’t want a statement or admission of guilt attached to it.

You must know when an officer can search your home and don’t let them inside unless they have a warrant. If an officer asks to search your car, ask about probable cause or if they are going to obtain a warrant for the search. This should at least slow down the process to give you time to contact your lawyer.

If you need a trusted California criminal defense attorney, our office is here when you need us. Just give us a call and we’ll make sure to protect your rights.