If you've had an unexpected visit from local law enforcement and that visit resulted in an arrest, you may well be wondering whether or not it was all legal. The rights that give law enforcement access to your person, car or home are strictly controlled, and you might have reason to cast doubt if all was not "by the book". After you contact a criminal law attorney to help fight for justice on your behalf, it may help to learn a bit more about search and seizure laws in general. Read on to find out if your rights may have been trampled.
A search warrant gives law enforcement the power to enter a residence or other dwelling without permission. It should be noted that if they ask for permission to enter and perform a search, then you have the right to deny or approve of that search and no search warrant is needed. You can, however, make your consent limited to certain areas. For example, you might say "search the house but not the baby's room," and they must comply or get a warrant.
Grounds for a Search Warrant
The police cannot request a search warrant for just any old reason; there must be a specific need to enter a dwelling. There must be probable cause, and a judge or magistrate must sign off on it. To convince the judge to sign the search warrant law enforcement personnel use affidavits where they swear that there is probable cause to conduct the search. These types of warrants may be granted around the clock with judges being "on call" and ready to consider the validity of the request. It should be noted that you will not be present or even have knowledge of the warrant until they arrive at your door. You do, however, have every right to challenge the validity and legality of the search warrant if you find yourself arrested as a result.
Any suspicion or evidence of wrong-doing is considered probable cause, but there is a burden to prove that a dwelling holds evidence of criminal acts. Often a search is preceded by an investigation into wrong-doing that resulted in probable cause. This can be the suspicion of the presence of things like:
- Drugs and drug paraphernalia
- A person who is dead or injured
- Evidence of illegal gambling
- Illegal weapons
- Stolen items or contraband
and much more.
Being accused of any crime is a serious matter, so speak to a DUI attorney right away.