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When Police Don’t Need a Warrant to Search You

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides you protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Law enforcement must obtain a search warrant that is signed by a judge before entering your private property. The judge may only provide a search warrant if the police have shown:
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  • It is more likely than not that a crime has taken place; and
  • Items connected to the crime are likely to be found in a specified location on the property.

When a valid search warrant is issued, the evidence from the search can legally be used against you in trial. But do the police always need a warrant to search you or your property? There are several situations in which they have the right to search you without a warrant.

Let’s take a look at California v. Greenwood (108 S. Ct. 1625, 56 USLW 4409, 100 L.Ed.2d 30), in which law enforcement conducted a search without obtaining a warrant…

Is Going through Your Garbage an Unreasonable Search and Seizure?

Investigator Jenny Stracner of the Laguna Beach Police Department suspected that Billy Greenwood was selling illegal drugs from his home. She asked that the neighborhood trash collector bring her his garbage so she could search it for evidence of drug trafficking.

In Greenwood’s garbage, Stracner found drug paraphernalia and evidence of marijuana and cocaine use. Stracner presented this evidence to a judge so she could obtain a warrant to search the inside of his home. The warrant was granted and more evidence of drug trafficking was found.

Was it illegal or unreasonable for the investigator to search Greenwood’s garbage? The Supreme Court believed it was not. The court argued that it is common knowledge that garbage left on the side of the street is accessible to the public. By putting your garbage on the side of the street, you are accepting that the trash collector, animals and scavengers can take it. Therefore, this was not considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

When is a Search Warrant Not Necessary?

The Greenwood case shows us that police do not always need a warrant to conduct a search. Here are some other situations in which a warrant is not necessary:canstockphoto12570221.jpg

  • You have voluntarily given police consent to search you and you were not pressured or tricked into agreeing to the search;
  • The police officer spotted something illegal in plain view and had the right to be in the place when he spotted it;
  • The area within your immediate control was searched while you were being legally arrested; and
  • Following a legal arrest, police searched your residence because they feared a dangerous accomplice was hiding in the area.

You may not be protected by the Fourth Amendment in any of the above circumstances. Police can legally conduct a search without a warrant if consent has been given, the search is made in connection with an arrest, or they have a reasonable fear of imminent danger. More importantly, the evidence from these searches can be used against you in any court hearings involved with your case.

Call the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today

If you are facing criminal charges and the police have searched you with or without a warrant, it is important to seek legal guidance. The evidence found during the search will have a major impact on the outcome of your case. With over 30 years of experience, the attorneys at Wallin & Klarich are extremely knowledgeable about issues of police searches and illegally obtained evidence.

With offices located in Orange County, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Torrance, Riverside, West Covina, Victorville, Ventura, San Diego and Sherman Oaks, our skilled attorneys are available to help you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.

About Wallin & Klarich

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.