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When can police search your property?

On Behalf of | Sep 1, 2022 | Firm News

The Fourth Amendment protects the people of the United States from being subject to unreasonable searches and seizures. However, there are instances in which the police can lawfully search your property and seize property that they feel it is warranted to take. The question that you may be asking is when is it lawful for police to search your property and when isn’t it lawful?

From the law’s perspective, when it comes to search and seizure, there are two important matters that must be weighed in order to determine if the search is lawful. If the government has determined that there is a justifiable need to search your property and seize what it feels is a piece of property, that is considered within its rights. On the other hand, if the search and seizure intrudes upon your Fourth Amendment rights, the search and seizure is not lawful.

What is covered under the Fourth Amendment?

To some degree, the exact protection that you have under the Fourth Amendment is dependent on exactly where the search and seizure is taking place. Searches and seizures commonly occur in the following places and the degree of protection varies for each:

  • A home: If the search and seizure occurs within your home and the people conducting the search don’t have a warrant, that is not considered reasonable. However, it is important to understand that there are exceptions to this. The search and seizure without a warrant will be considered lawful if you give permission for the search, if the search is connected to a legal arrest, if the police have a probable cause to search, or if the items of interest in your home are in plain sight.
  • Behavior: If you are behaving in a manner that the police feel is odd to the point where they suspect that there is some criminal activity that is occurring, the police officer may ask questions to either determine that their suspicions are correct or to be proven wrong.
  • A school:  When it comes to searching a school, police don’t need to get a warrant before they search a student. The only thing that needs to be certain is that the search of the student must be determined to be considered reasonable under those particular circumstances.
  • A motor vehicle: The following circumstances and actions that the police might take are within the law:
    • If the police have reason to believe that the vehicle contains some sort of evidence of a crime, their search will be considered lawful. This applies to every inch of the vehicle.
    • If the police officer believes that a traffic violation may have been committed by someone in the vehicle, it is lawful for them to search the vehicle as well.
    • If the police officer believes that a pat-down is necessary at the time when the traffic stop occurred, it isn’t even necessary for there to be suspicion of any criminal activity.
    • If the police officer decides to instruct a police dog to walk around the outside of the vehicle, they don’t need to suspect any criminal activity for the instruction to the dog to be legal.
    • The police are lawfully allowed to set up highway checkpoints to find people who have been driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
    • However, what is not allowed is for the police officer to make use of a checkpoint that was set up for discovery to catch people driving under the influence.

Consulting with a knowledgeable attorney

If you feel that you have been subject to an illegal search and seizure by police, it may be valuable to your case if you speak with a knowledgeable California criminal defense attorney. The attorney can probably offer you valuable advice that may make the consequences of your situation less severe than they would be otherwise so that you can move on in your life.