When Can the Police Invade Your Privacy?
The police knock on your front door. Once you answer, officers show you a search warrant that’s been signed by a local judge. This means the judge (or magistrate, as is sometimes the case in Texas) agreed with the police that probable cause of your involvement with criminal activity exists. Unfortunately, you must now let the police search your home.
How did it get to that point? And, are there limits to what the police can do while executing the search warrant? We’ll answer those questions below.
How Can the Police Get Probable Cause?
There are a variety of ways the police can gather probable cause to support their request for a search warrant. Officers can get information from an informant, perform surveillance on your house, have someone sign an affidavit claiming you were involved in criminal activity, or witness something in plain sight where you don’t necessarily have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
If the police get a search warrant to go through your house, they are limited in their actions. In other words, the police cannot simply ransack your place in a fishing expedition to turn up evidence of criminal activity. The warrant should lay out the parts of a property to be searched, the type of evidence being sought, and the time of day to execute the search warrant. Each warrant has unique terms, but the good news is that there are certain limits the police must abide by.
When Can the Police Search Your Car?
Getting pulled over for speeding or rolling through a stop sign does not allow the police to search your car without your consent. If an officer asks to search your car, you should always refuse.
The situation is different if there is evidence of criminal activity in plain view. For instance, the police will probably not need your consent to search your car if he or she smells marijuana or sees a baggy of drugs. If you are detained or placed in custody, the police may pat you down for weapons or anything that may be evidence of criminal activity.
What if the Police Conduct an Unlawful Search?
If the police are conducting a search they don’t have the right to conduct, don’t try to settle the issue during the commission of the search. Your safety is the most important thing, and you will have the opportunity for justice after you speak with an attorney.
Your attorney will be able to file a motion to suppress evidence if any evidence the prosecution plans on presenting was gathered during an unlawful search. So, for instance, let’s say police officers visit your home, force themselves inside, and find drugs. While you will likely be arrested and charged, a skilled attorney will be able to exclude that evidence at your trial.
Whether the police are authorized to perform a search depends on numerous factors, including what they searched and the items they seized. The law provides certain privacy protections for people, but it takes an experienced attorney to determine whether your privacy was violated by police and what to do if your rights were, indeed, violated. Kimbrough Legal would be happy to help if you are in this situation; give our firm a call at (833) 553-4521 to set up a consultation or learn more about our services.