When Can A Police Officer Search You?

When Can A Police Officer Search You?

The Fourth Amendment protects you from unlawful searches and seizures conducted by law enforcement officers. Because of this amendment, police officers must follow certain guidelines when conducting searches of an individual or his private property, including his car and home. So, when can a police officer search you or your property?

Search Warrants

A search warrant is a legal document issued by a judge that gives law enforcement the permission to search a specific location. In order to obtain a search warrant, police officers must appear in front of a judge and make prove why they have probable cause or reasonable belief that a crime has been committed at the specific location. A search warrant can be issued for a suspect’s home, car, backyard, or any other property.

In most cases, police officers will have to obtain a search warrant in order to legally perform a search. However, there are certain situations where a police officer can legally search an individual or his property without a search warrant.


Police officers are allowed to ask you whether you consent to being searched without a warrant. If you provide consent, the police officers are permitted to conduct the search without seeking a judge’s approval.

Plain View Doctrine

Police officers do not need a warrant to search an area that is clearly visible. For example, if a police officer pulls someone over for speeding and then notices an open bottle of alcohol in the passenger seat, he can conduct a search without a warrant because the evidence is in plain view.

Search Incident to Arrest

Law enforcement does not need to obtain a warrant to search someone who is being arrested for committing a crime. This means if a person is arrested for committing a crime, the police officer can search him and any area surrounding the person that is within reach without a warrant. This is permitted so the police officer can ensure there are no weapons that could cause him or harm or evidence that could be destroyed.

Exigent Circumstances

Police officers are also allowed to perform a warrantless search if they feel that it is too risky to wait to obtain the warrant. For example, if they have reason to believe that someone is being hurt inside a home, it would not be wise to waste time appearing before a judge to obtain a warrant. Instead, the officers are allowed to conduct the search to prevent further harm.

If a police officer conducts an unlawful search, the evidence collected in that search cannot be used against you. If you have been arrested, contact our criminal defense attorneys today so we can begin reviewing the legality of the searches in your case. Schedule a consultation with Reisch Law Firm today by calling 303-291-0555 or filling out this online form.

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