Most people do not expect the police to show up one day and conduct a search and seizure of their home. When it does happen, the average citizen isn’t sure what to do or say at the time. Afterward, however, the questions tend to surface. If you find yourself the subject of a search of your home, the most prominent concern after the fact will likely be whether the search was legal. A Murfreesboro drug defense lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains basic search and seizure law as it applies to the search of your home.
Your Constitutional Rights and the Fourth Amendment
In the United States, we are fortunate to be protected by a number of rights and privileges guaranteed to us in the U.S. Constitution. Most of those can be found in the first ten amendments, collectively referred to as the “Bill of Rights.” The right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures can be found in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which reads as follows:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
What Does the Fourth Amendment Mean?
The strength of the protection afforded by the 4th amendment has been watered down somewhat by the courts that have interpreted it over the years; however, it general, it stands for the concept that a law enforcement officer cannot conduct a search of your person, property, or things without first obtaining a warrant that must be based on probable cause. Probable cause, in turn, requires a logical belief, supported by facts and circumstances, that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed or that evidence of a crime will be found at the location to be searched.
The Fourth Amendment Today
As written and interpreted literally, the 4th amendment requires the police to secure a search warrant in order to conduct any search. The courts, however, have chosen to interpret the 4th amendment more liberally, finding a number of exceptions to the warrant requirement. Your home, however, continues to retain the highest degree of protection afforded by the 4th Amendment. Unless one of the narrow exceptions to the general rule applies, the police must obtain a valid search warrant before conducting a search of your home. Those exceptions include:
- Consent – this is, by far, the most commonly used exception to the warrant requirement. Put simply, if you consent to a search of your home a warrant is not required. The police will sometimes go to great lengths to get you to consent. They may tell you a warrant is on its way so you might as well sign the consent. They may threaten to arrest you or make promises for your cooperation. Never consent to a search without first consulting with a criminal defense attorney.
- Incident to arrest – if a law enforcement officer is at your home in order to serve a legitimate arrest warrant, a limited search may be conducted near the arrestee. The purpose of this type of search is to ensure that the arrestee does not have weapons or contraband within reach. This exception does not justify a search of your entire home.
- Plain view – if a police officer knocks on your door and can see contraband in plain view when you answer the door, the officer is no longer required to obtain a warrant. The moral here is never answer the door if you have anything questionable within view of the door.
- Emergency/hot pursuit – this exception applies if a law enforcement officer believes there is a genuine, time-sensitive emergency occurring that requires him/her to enter the home. For instance, if the officer hears someone inside the house screaming for help, the officer is not required to get a warrant. It may also apply if the officer is in “hot pursuit,” meaning the officer is chasing someone who has committed a crime.
Contact a Murfreesboro Drug Defense Lawyer
If you are concerned about the legality of a search and seizure conducted in your home in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Murfreesboro drug defense lawyer immediately to determine if the search can be challenged. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.
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