Generally speaking, the police need a search warrant to search someone’s home. The home is one of the areas in which people usually have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Thus, under the 4th Amendment, police need a warrant before they can search a person’s home. However, there are certain circumstances in which police can conduct a warrantless search of your home.
These include situations like: evidence is about to be destroyed; a suspect is fleeing in your building; there is a lawful arrest in progress; the items being seized were in plain sight; and the person has consented to a search of the premises. These are known as “exceptions to the warrant requirement.”
What Information Should a Search Warrant Contain?
A valid police search warrant should contain:
- A description of the items that the police are attempting to seize
- A description of the premises or residence to be searched
- The signature of a neutral, detached judge or magistrate
Thus, a police home search may be considered invalid if these warrant requirements are not fulfilled. For instance, if the warrant only authorizes the police to enter a certain address, they can’t enter into an adjacent neighbor’s house, or into the house located across the street. They would need to secure a separate warrant for that house.
What If I Wasn’t Home When the Police Searched My Room?
Some jurisdictions allow the police to search your home if your landlord or roommate gives the police permission to enter in the home. However, the landlord or roommate can only authorize the police’s entry into common areas that are shared by you. They generally can’t allow the police to enter into your own private room. Evidence that’s seized due to an improper search can’t be used in court.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Police Search Issues?
Police searches can often affect the outcome of a criminal trial. You may need to hire a lawyer if you need help with police search legal issues. Your criminal attorney can determine whether a police search was conducted properly, and whether or not the evidence should be admitted to court. Also, your lawyer can help provide representation during the actual criminal proceedings.