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When are warrantless searches legal?

On Behalf of | Nov 2, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Police officers typically need to show a warrant if they want to search your vehicle. That is because the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment grants people the right to go about without constantly worrying police will stop them and search their vehicle.

Yet there are exceptions when the police do not need to hold a valid search warrant.

Here are the three exceptions:

You give them permission

You might wonder why anyone would do that. Often it’s because people don’t understand their rights. They don’t realize they can refuse without any legal consequences.

Other times it’s because they have nothing to hide, so they see no reason to refuse. What they might not realize is that accepting could end up complicating their life.

For instance, unbeknown to them, someone else has stashed drugs in their car. If the police find those drugs, they will likely assume they are theirs and arrest them. If they’d refused the search, they’d have been on their way in no time, and the true owner could have later removed the drugs without anyone knowing. Now, the car owner is sitting in a cell, needing legal help to explain they knew nothing about the drugs.

Probable cause

If the police can show they had a valid reason to believe a crime had been committed and there might be evidence inside, they can search the vehicle.

Exigent circumstances

This comes down to safety. If officers believe they need to search the vehicle because someone will be in immediate danger if they don’t.

If you are unsure of your rights and are caught up in a tricky situation, seek legal help to clarify them.