Grounds To Search: What To Know
If you have been arrested because of something found during a search by law enforcement, you might wonder if the search was legal. Law enforcement has the right to search private property if they deem it necessary. Read on to find out more about the grounds to search private property.
Search Warrants and Warrantless Searches
A search warrant gives law enforcement the right to perform a search of a designated area. A judge must approve of the search warrant after law enforcement prepares an affidavit detailing the reasons. Valid reasons must exist. In an emergency, a telephonic search warrant may be used but it must be followed up with an affidavit. While search warrants are often issued for legitimate reasons, not all are. If you have been arrested because of something found after a search warrant was issued, ask your criminal defense attorney about the legality of it.
In certain cases, law enforcement is authorized to perform a search without a warrant. However, there must be grounds for the search, and they must be just as valid as those using a search warrant. Some common situations where grounds could exist include:
- Suspicious or illegal items are seen in plain sight. For example, law enforcement might see someone injured through the window of a residence. This is considered an emergency because someone's life could be in jeopardy and thus entering and searching the residence is legal.
- Illegal or suspicious items are in plain view through the window of a vehicle. For example, law enforcement officers spot a weapon, drugs, alcohol containers, etc. through the windows. When law enforcement determines that a law is probably being broken because of what they observe, a search can be legal.
- Behavior or characteristics of a driver. For example, someone is pulled over for running a stop sign and the officer notes that the driver seems nervous, sleepy, drunk, etc. Law enforcement might also note the odor of alcohol on the driver when they approach the vehicle. This might provide them with reasons to perform a search.
- Law enforcement notes needles in plain sight in a vehicle. The officers may have the right to search the occupants of the vehicle because of the needles. Open needles present a danger to the officers as well as present evidence of the presence and use of illegal drugs and thus a search may be carried out.
- Finally, a concept known as "incident to an arrest" may call for a search if the suspect is arrested for any reason.
The above grounds and others might be valid, or they might not pass the test of legality. Speak to a criminal lawyer for help with these serious issues.