One of the best defenses against drug possession and other types of charges is that evidence was obtained during an illegal search and seizure. However, it is important to know that not all searches require warrants. There are four specific times when police officers are allowed to make warrantless searches.
1. If the suspect consents to a search
You may feel uncomfortable saying no to the police. You may worry that if you say no to a search, you’ll look even more suspicious or make them angry, leading to additional repercussions. However, if you consent to a search, all evidence obtained is valid.
When asking to search your vehicle or residence, police officers may use suggestive phrasing such as, “you wouldn’t mind if I looked in…” Many people forget that they have the right to say no. When saying no to a search, make sure you say it clearly and calmly. This won’t leave room for any misunderstanding.
2. When evidence is in plain view
The ‘plain view doctrine' allows police to make warrantless searches if they see evidence in plain view. An example of this is if you are pulled over and there are drugs on your passenger seat. The officer can see this through the window and is able to search the vehicle without first obtaining a warrant.
Whether or not officers are allowed to make a warrantless search if they smell marijuana is highly debated. While the scent of marijuana alone used to be enough to justify a search, many states have changed their minds about this. If your car was searched after an officer smelled marijuana, it is best to consult with a defense attorney.
3. If public safety is at risk
Police officers are allowed to conduct warrantless searches when members of the public are in imminent danger.
This is justifiable if:
- Evidence needs to be found before a suspect can destroy it
- If someone is at risk of being seriously injured or killed
- There are reasonable public safety concerns
If there is a clear threat of immediate danger, police officers must protect the public and do not need to go through the process of obtaining a warrant.
4. While making an arrest
When police are making an arrest, they have the right to conduct a search that ensures they are not in harm’s way. This is referred to as a ‘protective sweep.’ During this search, they look for accomplices in hiding, weapons, or any other threats. If during this sweep they find evidence, they can continue their search.
Miami Florida Defense Attorneys
Do you believe your rights were violated during a warrantless search? We can help get to the bottom of it. Our team at Hager & Schwartz, P.A. can investigate the circumstances of the search and, when possible, prove that the evidence against you was obtained illegally and cannot be considered. Call today at (305) 330-1360 and share the details of your arrest with our Florida defense lawyers.