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Can the police search and seize my property without a warrant?

On Behalf of | Apr 10, 2023 | criminal defense

Generally, the police need a warrant to conduct a search. To obtain a warrant, however, the police must prove to the court that they have sufficient probable cause to conduct a search. And when the court is convinced that they have a case, it will issue a warrant for a specific location. 

Under the law, however, there are instances when the police can search and seize property without a warrant. Here are three such instances:

Search and seizure

When you consent to the search – It’s important to understand that you are under no obligation to consent to a search. That said, police may not need a warrant to search your property when you wilfully let them in. 

Consensual search can be a controversial topic though. For instance, if the residence has more than one adult occupant, then the search may be restricted to the consenting party’s personal space.

Under emergency circumstances – when the police believe that an individual is in possession of valuable evidence that they are likely to destroy, they may enter a property, search and retrieve the evidence in question without a warrant or permission. Likewise, if the police believe someone is in danger, they will not need a warrant to enter the property. 

When the evidence is in plain view – Police do not need a warrant to seize any evidence that they can clearly see while legally on your property. For instance, if the police (while searching for drugs on your property) run into a cache of unlicensed firearms, they can confiscate such firearms without a warrant. 

Protecting your rights

All criminal matters are litigated and determined on account of evidence. However, the police cannot use underhand techniques to search and seize your property. Learning more about the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution can help you protect yourself from an illegal search and seizure.