Know Your Rights When It Comes to Searches

30 September 2022
 Categories: Law, Blog


In television dramas, it's common to see law enforcement performing searches at homes, businesses, and on vehicles all the time. In real life, though, searches are only allowed under certain circumstances. To find out what those circumstances are, read on.

Did You Give Permission to Search?

Law enforcement must have a reason to perform a search. However, they may also simply ask you if you will agree to a search. Many people fear that refusing to allow a search must make them look suspicious. Law enforcement, unfortunately, encourages that by making it seem as if you should allow a search if you have nothing to hide. They may even badger you when you refuse to allow a search. You have the right, however, to refuse a search of your personal property. They cannot arrest you for that refusal.

Probable Cause

Law enforcement does not always need permission to search, however. If they believe that probable cause exists, they can perform the search regardless. There are many potential reasons that could call for a search. Here are a few common reasons:

  • The driver appears to be under the influence and impaired.
  • Drugs, alcohol, drug paraphernalia, or weapons are clearly visible to law enforcement from outside the home or vehicle.
  • The driver has already been arrested for a crime. For instance, they have been arrested for DUI, fleeing, etc. This form of search is known as an incident to the arrest.
  • The odor of marijuana or alcohol is obvious.

Dogs Are Called In

In some cases, if you refuse to allow a search and they suspect drug activities, a drug-sniffing dog will be called in. The dog is allowed to sniff not only the outside of your vehicle but also through the open doors of your vehicle.

Search Warrants

If law enforcement suspects something, they can arrive with a warrant. The warrant gives them permission from a judge to search the specified area listed in the paperwork. This happens when law enforcement needs to search for evidence, when a suspect is suspected of being at a location, among other reasons. There must be solid evidence to support such a warrant and it must be able to stand up in court later. Lately, law enforcement has been in the news for falsifying the affidavits for the warrant to gain access illegally, with fatal results.

If you were arrested because of what you think could be an illegal search, speak to a criminal defense attorney about your case. You can have the case dismissed if you are right.