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What Is a Consensual Search?
A consensual search occurs when a person gives the police consent or permission to search them or their property. In most cases, police need to secure a search warrant before they can search areas in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, police can still conduct a search without a warrant so long as the person consents to it.
In order for such a search to be valid, the consent needs to be offered willingly, voluntarily, and the person should have an understanding that they are granting the police the authority to conduct such as a search.
What Are Exceptions to the Warrant Requirement?
Consensual searches are just one of many conditions which are known as "exceptions to the warrant requirement." These exceptions are basically conditions in which the police can conduct a criminal investigation searches even without search a warrant. Some other exceptions to the warrant requirement include:
- Plain view- Police can confiscate items that are in plain view or plain sight (although they must be on the premises lawfully to begin with).
- Search related to an arrest- Police can conduct a search incident to a lawful arrest, mostly for the purpose of disarming the person and checking for contraband. This is usually limited to the person’s body and the area immediately surrounding them.
- Frisks- Police can sometimes frisk a person’s outer layers of clothing for weapons. This is usually done as part of an investigative stop, and is much more limited than a search incident to an arrest.
- Emergency/fleeting evidence- Police can search for items if there are emergency conditions (for instance, if they are pursuing a suspect) or if there is danger that the evidence will be destroyed or lost very soon.
- Vehicle searches- Police can make a cursory search of a vehicle after it has been lawfully stopped. There may be limitations as to which areas of the car the police can search (for instance, locked trunks and containers may be protected).
- Protective sweep search- Police can usually sweep through the premises to check for other hidden suspects, provided that the sweep is connected with a valid arrest.
Again, to be clear, the police don’t need a search warrant if any of these exceptions apply.
What If I Feel That a Police Search Violated My Rights?
If you feel that your rights have been violated by a police search, you may need to hire a lawyer for advice. For instance, if you feel that you property was searched even though you did not consent to it, there is a possibility that the search was unreasonable or unlawful. Evidence that is obtained through an illegal search is supposed to be excluded from trial evidence records.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Consensual Search Laws?
Understanding police search laws can sometimes be quite challenging to do. You may need to hire a lawyer if you need assistance with any criminal and procedural laws in your area. Your attorney can explain how the law might affect your situation, and can provide you with guidance on your issue. Also, a qualified criminal defense lawyer can represent you during court hearings.
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Last Modified: 01-28-2014 11:50 AM PST
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