Searches and Seizures

Searches and Seizures: The Limitations of the Police


Although residents of the united States have a right to privacy and freedom in the face of interference by the government, that privacy has a limit. The officers of the state or federal police are allowed, provided that it is justified, register your home, your car or other property in order to search and seize illegal items, stolen goods or evidence of a crime. What rules must be met for the police to carry out searches and seizures? What can be done according to the laws and what is not?

What police CAN do:

  • According to the fourth amendment of the Constitution of the united States, the police may carry out searches and seizures “reasonable”.
  • To demonstrate that a search is “reasonable,” the police must demonstrate that it is likely that a crime has been committed and that, if it is carried out a record, you probably will find stolen goods or evidence of a crime. This is called probable cause.
  • In some situations, the police must first prove it before a judge who issues a search warrant. However, in many special circumstances, the police may conduct a search without a warrant. In fact, most of the records were performed “without order”.
  • The police can search and seize items or evidence when there is no “legitimate expectation of privacy”. In other words, if you had no right to privacy in the items or evidence, the police can take them without giving rise to a registration.

Note: To decide if there was a “legitimate expectation of privacy,” a court will consider two things:

  • Did you have an expectation of some degree of privacy?
  • How that expectation was reasonable according to the criteria of our society?

Example: You have a semi-automatic rifle that he stole from a store of effort. Leave the rifle on the hood of his car when he comes home. You do not have a “legitimate expectation of privacy” with regard to things you leave on the hood of your car, and the police may take the rifle. There has been a record.

  • The police may use first hand information or clues from an informant to justify the need to register their property. If you use the information provided by an informant, the police should verify that such information is reliable under the circumstances.
  • Once you have obtained an order, the police can enter in the specified area of the property, and to find the articles detailed in the order.
  • The police can extend the registration beyond the specified area of the property or include other items in the registry in addition to those specified or detailed on the order if it is necessary to:
  • ensure your safety or the safety of others;
  • prevent the destruction of evidence;
  • discover more about possible evidence or stolen items that are to the naked eye; or
  • look for evidence or stolen items that, according to his initial registration of the specified area, it considers that they may be in another place of the property.

Example: The police have a warrant to record his basement in search of evidence of a manufacturing operation of drugs. In your tour through your home to reach the basement, you see a pair of weapons on the kitchen table. The police may take the guns in order to ensure your safety while registering your basement.

  • You can even register your property without a warrant if you have provided consent to the registration. The consent must be free and voluntary, and you may not be under coercion or deception to do so.
  • The police can search your person and the immediate surroundings without a warrant when it is put under arrest.
  • If a person is arrested in a residence, police may carry out a “sweep” protection of the residence in order to perform a “visual inspection surface” of the places that can be hiding an accomplice. In order to do so, the police must have a reasonable belief that there may be an accomplice in the immediate vicinity

Example: The police arrested him in his dining room on charges of murder. The officers can open the door of your closet to make sure that no one is more hidden, but may not open your medicine cabinet because there could not be an accomplice there.

  • When it is carried to jail, police may perform a “record inventory” of items you have with you without an order. This record may include your car if it is retained by the police in order to enumerate all the articles that you have within.
  • The police can search without a warrant if they have a reasonable fear for your safety or for the public safety.

Example: If the police pass by your house on a usual tour of the neighborhood and see you in your open garage, with ten boxes of dynamite and a blowtorch, you can register your garage without a warrant.

  • If it is necessary to prevent the imminent destruction of evidence, the police may carry out a search without a warrant.

Example: If the police sees you trying to burn a wad of money that you have stolen from a bank, you can conduct a search without a warrant in order to avoid destroying the money.

  • The official may conduct a search without a warrant if they are in “active persecution” of a suspect who enters a private dwelling or area after escaping the scene of a crime.

Example: If the police are chasing you from the scene of a murder, and you run into your apartment in an attempt to escape them, they can follow him into the apartment and record the area without a warrant.

  • Police officers can pat down your clothing outside, provided that they have a reasonable belief that you may be hiding a weapon and you fear for their safety.

What police CAN’T do:

  • The police cannot conduct a search without a warrant in any place in which you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, unless you apply one of the exceptions to the order.
  • If you obtain evidence through a record irrational or illegal, the police cannot use it against you in a trial. This is called the “exclusionary rule”.
  • The police may not use evidence resulting from an illegal search to look for other evidence.
  • The police can’t provide affidavit to justify the obtaining of a search warrant if he did not have a reasonable belief regarding the veracity of what is expressed in the statement.
  • The police cannot register their vehicle unless there is a reasonable suspicion that it contains evidence, illegal items, or stolen goods. However, if the police has confiscated your car, you can register it.
  • The police can’t stop it, and cache it unless you have a reasonable suspicion that he has participated in a crime. If you have a reasonable suspicion, may pat down your clothing outside if you are concerned that you have a hidden weapon.


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