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When Can Police Search Your Home?

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When Can Police Search Your Home?

Under the 4th Amendment, every citizen has a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by the police in areas where one has a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” This includes searches of a person’s body, belongings, and their home. On the other hand, police can generally search a person’s home if they have first secured a valid search warrant.

In order to obtain a search warrant, the police need probable cause that there is criminal activity occurring in the home. Probable cause is a higher level of suspicion than mere “reasonable suspicion” and is the same level of suspicion needed for an arrest. The search warrant should clearly state the address of the residence to be searched, as well as the items that the police are to be looking for.

When Is a Warrant Not Needed to Search Your Home?

On the other hand, there are a few instances when the police may not need a warrant to search your home. These include situations such as:

  • The search is connected with a lawful arrest
  • The homeowner has consented to the search
  • The items are in plain view (such as on the front lawn or visible from the curb)
  • There is risk that the evidence will be destroyed
  • The police are currently engaged in hot pursuit of a suspect

Jurisdictions may vary slightly when it comes to these “exceptions” to the search warrant requirement. For instance, some regions may enforce different definitions of what terms like “in plain view” or “hot pursuit” mean.

What If the Search Was Improper or Illegal?

According to the exclusionary rule, evidence that is obtained from an improper or illegal search must be excluded from court. This means that it can’t be used as evidence during the upcoming trial. This includes searches of homes that are conducted improperly.

Thus, evidence that the police obtain during an improper warrantless search of a person’s home cannot be used as evidence. The evidence won’t be submitted during trial and can’t be referenced during the proceedings. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Police Searches of a Home?

Police searches often involve some complex criminal procedural rules. It’s always in your best interests to hire a criminal defense lawyer if you need help with a police search. Your attorney can help review the facts of the case to determine which evidence is admissible, and which evidence may be excluded from trial. Also, your lawyer can provide you with direct representation during the actual court trial. 

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 08-11-2014 11:08 AM PDT

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