Your home is a personal space where you can expect safety and privacy. The Fourth Amendment upholds your right to privacy by guarding against unreasonable search and seizure by the police. Before they can legally search your property, police officers must first obtain a search warrant. However, there are exceptions, though rare, that may allow them to enter your residence without one.
When there is consent
The police can enter and search your home without a warrant if you, or another individual with dominion and control over the residence, voluntarily give consent. If the other person grants permission, but you object to it, the police should not proceed with the search.
When evidence of criminal activity is in plain sight
The plain view doctrine authorizes police officers to enter your home if they observe illegal activities or paraphernalia from a place where they are lawfully present. For instance, if police knock on your door and notice illegal drugs on your counter, it may give them probable cause to perform a search.
When you are under arrest
If you are under arrest, the police may search your person and property to preserve evidence or ensure you do not possess any weapons. This is known as a search incident to arrest. However, this can only be done right after an arrest and is limited to the immediate vicinity.
When there are exigent circumstances
Exigent circumstances are urgent situations that justify a warrantless search, provided that probable cause exists. It includes cases where there is imminent danger to life, to stop the escape of a suspect or to prevent the destruction of evidence. If the police witness you committing a crime and you try to escape or destroy evidence, that may give them the right to search your home.
Fighting for your rights
Knowing your rights can help protect you in case the police show up at your doorstep. If you are uncertain whether your rights were violated, a criminal defense attorney can help you. Unreasonable search and seizure may play a role when building your defense strategy.