You’ve probably heard of an unreasonable search and seizure, but what does this mean, and when do police officers have the authority to search you or your property? Complex laws govern search and seizure rights in Florida and across the United States. Understanding these—as they apply to your unique situation—can give you a much-needed edge in the face of a criminal investigation or charges. Let’s take a closer look at what constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure in Florida.
Search Warrants & Fourth Amendment Rights
A search warrant is a legal document authorizing a police officer or another official to enter and search a premises. In most situations, police officers must get a court order issued by a magistrate or judge to search a person, location, or vehicle for evidence of a crime and to confiscate any evidence. This is because the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. If law enforcement officers conduct a search in violation of your rights, this may render any evidence they find as inadmissible—it cannot be used against you in court.
If you face criminal charges and you think police officers searched you or your property without a warrant, it can help your case. Contact our experienced Tampa criminal defense attorneys today to discover the different options available for you in the wake of an unreasonable search and seizure.
Can Police Officers Search Me Without a Warrant?
There are cases when police officers can search you or your property without a warrant. However, these cases are specific and rare. If you were searched without a warrant and your situation doesn’t fall into any of the cases below, you need to contact an attorney as soon as possible. It’s possible that you were the victim of an unreasonable search and seizure.
The following are scenarios where an officer may be able to search you or your property without a warrant:
- The officer gets your consent/agreement. Police can search without a warrant if they obtain consent—that is, if you agree when they ask to search you or your property. If you give a police officer consent to search you freely and voluntarily, no law is breached.
- The officer sees something unlawful in plain view: A police officer can seize evidence without a warrant if another officer is on the premises, and they see the evidence of something illegal in plain sight. An example may be a bag of cocaine visible in the backseat of a car.
- The officer is searching a person who is under arrest. If a law enforcement officer has already arrested someone, they have the right to search that person to confiscate any weapons or other dangerous items. They also have the right to search their car if the arrest occurred after a traffic stop.
- There are pressing circumstances. The police don’t have to obtain a search warrant if they have a reasonable belief that evidence will be destroyed or if someone is in danger. Circumstances such as this may allow a warrantless search.
- The officer has reasonable belief that you have contraband in your vehicle. If the officer has reason to believe that you have something dangerous or illegal in your car, they may be able to search your vehicle without your consent and/or a warrant.
- The officer is in “hot pursuit” of a fleeing criminal. Police officers may be able to enter private property without a warrant or consent—if they are in direct and immediate pursuit of a fleeing criminal.
Victim of an Unreasonable Search & Seizure? Call Our Tampa Criminal Defense Attorneys!
If you’re facing criminal charges and you believe police officers searched you wrongfully without a warrant, you need strong legal representation on your side. Our Tampa criminal defense attorneys at Thomas & Paulk, P.A. have handled more than 7,000 cases throughout the area. They are former prosecutors with extensive experience and training in the legal system, and they know how to identify and expose an unreasonable search and seizure to protect a client’s rights. When we take on a case, we do everything we can to obtain exceptional results for our clients. Let our team of experts help you!
Contact our Tampa criminal defense lawyers today at (813) 321-7323 to learn more about the different legal options available to you!