Can the police search your house or car without a search warrant?
The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution is a very powerful thing, a liberty and a right that each of us possess. The 4th Amendment reads:
“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.”
Imagine the police knocking on your door at 3 am. You come downstairs and the police want to search you house. They say they have information that you have illegal things (fill in the blank) in your home and that they want your permission to search your house. There are things that are personal to you and your family within your castle, your kingdom. Things that are priceless to you, things that you would not want others to see. What do you do?
First, be polite to the police. Ask them why they want to search? For what are they looking? Do they have a search warrant that sets out what probable cause they developed or swore to an impartial magistrate judge that they possess? Second, do NOT allow them entry into your home. Politely step out and discuss these issues with them. Remember, be polite but explain this is YOUR home. If they do not have a warrant, simply ask them to leave.
It is the job of the police to do things within the law. If they have probable cause to search, they should have documented this in a search warrant. A search warrant allows them to search without your permission. An impartial judge must have reviewed the facts and the probable cause that will allow them to search for these illegal things or evidence of a crime. Many men and women have given their lives so that police cannot just barge in and go through your personal effects and papers and things that are important to you.
Once they leave—or if they don’t—call me. My cell number is 864-809-1226, and I will answer your call 24/7. Your right to not have your home searched without a warrant is a valuable asset; it is yours and yours alone. I will be happy to discuss this with the police on your behalf. There are some rare circumstances that would allow them to search, but let me discuss this with them. I know the questions to pose and most likely will know the officer standing there with you.
As for your car, let’s have that discussion in the near future. There are many legal issues dealing with a car search, and I am happy to talk to you about them.
Remember, be kind to the police. Simply tell them you would like to speak with me before they go any further, they will understand and accommodate your request.
About Steve Denton: Prior to becoming an attorney, Steve was a narcotics and vice squad officer in the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Department. He worked his way to homicide investigations before he decided to venture to the other side of the courtroom and represent defendants as a criminal law attorney. Steve is a strong advocate for police officers, and serves as a Southern States Police Benevolence Association on-call attorney for the Upstate. Learn more about Steve here.