Felony charges are not created in a vacuum. They sometimes are created through searches that are not exactly illegal, but are conducted largely because a suspect does not know their rights under federal law, thus allowing law enforcement officers to discover evidence they might not have if a person’s constitutional rights were respected.
With that, it is essential for people to understand the restrictions and procedures the police must follow when searching an individual’s private property. This post will highlight a few important things about searches.
First, generally speaking, law enforcement officers must obtain a warrant to search areas where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. This expectation largely covers a person’s home, place of business, a person’s hotel room, and even a person’s computer or cell phone. A well-pled warrant establishes that the police have probable cause to conduct a search because of a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed.
Indeed, there are several exceptions to the warrant requirement. For example, officers may search the passenger compartment of person’s car where a driver could reasonably reach to hide contraband or weapons. The police may also search other areas if there is probable cause that evidence relating to a recent crime (where the car was involved) may be found.
Additionally, officers may conduct a cursory search for weapons during a personal stop (i.e. a “stop and frisk”) and have some authority to search for contraband if the initial search raises reasonable suspicion. Indeed, these rules have differing interpretations depending on a person’s point of view, which is why it is important for an experienced criminal defense attorney to analyze the situation to ensure a defendant’s constitutional rights are upheld.