The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation.”
In layman’s terms, you are always protected inside your home. The amendment also protects you in public wherever you have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Police must have probable cause if they want to conduct a search.
If the officer does not have a warrant to search your car or home, you can deny permission. They may not like it, but it’s your legal right.
When Police Do Not Need a Warrant
The most obvious scenario is when you give police permission to conduct a search. Even then, you can limit the search. If the police want to search your car during a traffic stop, for example, you can tell them it’s OK to look in the trunk, but deny them access to the glove compartment. You can also take back your consent if you change your mind.
Other scenarios where a warrant is not required:
- When evidence is in “plain view” — for example, if an officer can see drugs on a table through a window when walking past your home.
- In cases of “plain smell” and “plain feel.” Police can search your entire vehicle if, during a traffic stop, they smell marijuana.
- During a “stop and frisk,” when police have reason to suspect that you have committed a crime.
- When police are in “hot pursuit.” Police have reasonable cause to search your residence if they witness you commit a crime and follow you home.
- Under “exigent circumstances,” when other factors outweigh your privacy rights. This occurs when police reasonably believe someone is in danger, evidence may be destroyed or a suspect might escape.
Understanding When Your Rights Are Violated
Unfortunately, your rights are not always clear because of these exceptions. In some cases, police might commit questionable acts. For example, if they enter your house because they say they heard someone yell for help. If you interfere, you could be charged with obstruction, resisting arrest or even assaulting an officer if you make physical contact. In the end, it can come down to your word against theirs.
A criminal defense attorney at the Webb Firm, P.C. in Conroe, Texas, is familiar with the local legal system and its prominent players. Attorney Amanda Webb served as an Assistant District Attorney in Montgomery County. She is well-known and respected in the law enforcement community. She and the rest of the firm’s staff will work tirelessly and aggressively to protect your interests. Contact us today for a free case consultation.