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August 28, 2012

Searches and Seizures — Know Your Rights

Category: Criminal Law, Searches and Seizures, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Always Request a Warrant

You do not have to consent to a search of your car or home without a warrant.  If police threaten that they’ll just come back with one, then tell them that would be fine.  The truth is, if police could obtain a warrant, they probably already would have.  It’s important to remain civil and polite when dealing with situations like this, but stand firm when it comes to your rights.

Time Limits on the Road

If you have been pulled over, the police only have the right to search your vehicle if you give them probably cause — meaning criminal activity or illegal items in sight.  If police threaten with a dog, then say you’d like to meet the dog.  You do not have to consent to an illegal search, and police are only allowed to detain you for a certain amount of time.  It varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but the generally accepted limit for a normal traffic stop is 20 minutes if no other violations are found beyond the initial traffic violation.

Reasons for Search Without Warrant

There are a few cases when an officer would have the right to search your car or home without a warrant.


If you or another person deemed in control of the property consents to a search, then they have the right to search.  This is why it’s important to know your rights so that you know you don’t have to consent to these sorts of searches.

Plain View

If an officer already has the right to be on your property (due to a traffic stop or a domestic call) and he or she spots illegal items (like drugs or weapons) or sees a crime in progress or evidence of a crime, then he or she gains the right to search your property.

Search Incident to Arrest

If police are there to arrest you in your home or in your car, they can search for weapons or accomplices to protect their own safety or the safety of other individuals on the premises, as well as to prevent destruction of potential evidence.

Exigent Circumstances

Here is the big “exception that proves the rule.”  This exception gives police the right to search and seize evidence in situations where the process of obtaining a valid search warrant would compromise public safety or lead to destruction or loss of evidence.

Results of an Illegal Search

Now, the last word here is that you do not want to forcibly prevent officers from entering your property, as this could lead to more serious violations like obstruction of justice and assaulting an officer.  If they claim one of the exceptions above, make it clear that you are not consenting to the search, ask for identification and an explanation, and write down details of the search.  If the search is deemed unlawful, any evidence seized during it will be inadmissible in court.

Get Help From an Attorney

If you find yourself a victim of an illegal search and seizure, give us a call at Dan Miller Law.  We have the experience and knowledge to make sure your rights are respected and that illegal evidence cannot be used against you.  Give us a call at 816-875-0470, or use our web submission form to request more information.