Under the 4th Amendment, the Constitution guarantees that an individual is to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures in their homes. This is due to the fact that a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy from government intrusion in their home. However, are their circumstances where the police can enter your house without going through the process of obtaining a warrant?
Although the 4th Amendment seems to give individuals rights that are set in stone, numerous exceptions have arisen that allow police officers the ability to search without a warrant. One of these exceptions is the legal concept of exigent circumstances. Under this exception, police officers are allowed to bypass obtaining a search warrant due to the existence of some emergency circumstance that prevents obtaining a warrant. Generally, there are three examples of exigent circumstances: emergency situations, the possibility of the destruction of evidence, or the hot pursuit of a suspect in a crime. The reasoning behind this policy is that by allowing police officers to enter a home without a search warrant, the public receives a benefit through the ability to help individuals in danger, the preservation of valuable criminal evidence, or the capture of a dangerous criminal.
Determining The Legitimacy of Exigent Circumstances
Although allowing police to use exigent circumstances to justify warrantless searches is good for the public in general, it does offer the opportunity for abuse on the part of the police. Although there is no definite test, courts have considered the following factors in determining whether exigent circumstances exist:
- Bad faith on the part of the police officers;
- Availability of probable cause and time required to obtain a warrant;
- Reasonable foreseeability of the circumstances; and
- The use of standard or good investigative tactics;
Based off of exigent circumstances, police officers are given greater ability to search your house without first obtaining a warrant. As such, it is important to know your rights if the police show up at your house claiming they are allowed to search your house based off of exigent circumstances. Although it is probably not a smart decision to interfere with a search, it is important to clearly state that you deny consent for the search. Additionally, make sure to ask for identification and any explanation from the police officers for the search. After the search, write down any important details in order to produce a record of what occurred.
If you or someone you know have been charged with a crime based off a warrantless search, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case and possibly get the evidence excluded. Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.
James Minick is founder and C.E.O. of Minick Law, P.C. James is committed to providing top notch legal services through his team of highly specialized legal professionals. James will defend your rights.