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Thread: Search Warrants: What They Are & When They Are Necessary

  1. #1

    Default Search Warrants: What They Are & When They Are Necessary

    Posted by bigkarch on *************

    Search Warrants: What They Are & When They Are Necessary

    Learn when police officers must obtain a warrant before they search your home or other property.

    A search warrant is an order signed by a judge that authorizes police officers to search for specific objects or materials at a definite location at a specified time. For example, a warrant may authorize the search of "the premises at 11359 Happy Glade Avenue between the hours of 8 A.M. to 6 P.M.," and direct the police to search for and seize "cash, betting slips, record books and every other means used in connection with placing bets on horses."

    Police officers obtain warrants by convincing a judge or magistrate that they have "probable cause" to believe that criminal activity is occurring at the place to be searched or that evidence of a crime may be found there. Usually, the police provide the judge or magistrate with information in the form of written statements under oath, called "affidavits," which report either their own observations or those of private citizens or police undercover informants. In many areas, a judicial officer is available 24 hours a day to issue warrants. If the magistrate believes that the affidavit establishes probable cause to conduct a search, he or she will issue a warrant. The suspect, who may be connected with the place to be searched, is not present when the warrant issues and therefore cannot contest the issue of probable cause at that time. However, the suspect can later challenge the validity of the warrant before trial.

    What Is Probable Cause?

    The Fourth Amendment doesn't define "probable cause." Its meaning remains fuzzy. What is clear is that after 200 years of court interpretations, the affidavits submitted by police officers to judges have to identify objectively suspicious activities rather than simply recite the officer's subjective beliefs. The affidavits also have to establish more than a "suspicion" that criminal activity is afoot, but do not have to show "proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

    The information in the affidavit need not be in a form that would make it admissible at trial. However, the circumstances set forth in the affidavit as a whole should demonstrate the reliability of the information. In general, when deciding whether to issue a search warrant, a judicial officer will likely consider information in an affidavit reliable if it comes from any of these sources:

    a confidential police informant whose past reliability has been established or who has firsthand knowledge of illegal goings-on
    an informant who implicates herself as well as the suspect
    an informant whose information appears to be correct after at least partial verification by the police
    a victim of a crime related to the search
    a witness to the crime related to the search, or
    another police officer.
    Sometimes the police provide mistaken information in the affidavit and the judge or magistrate issues a warrant under circumstances that, given the true state of affairs, would not justify a search under the Fourth Amendment. The question then arises as to whether the search itself is legal. In most situations the search will be upheld if the police acted in good faith when seeking the warrant (that is, they didn't know about the mistakes in the affidavit). The reasoning here is that:

    it makes no sense to condemn the results of a search when police officers have done everything reasonable to comply with Fourth Amendment requirements, and
    the purpose of the rule excluding the results of an invalid search as evidence is to curb the police, not a judge, and that if a judge makes a mistake it should not be grounds to exclude evidence.
    What Police Can Search for and Seize Under a Warrant

    The police can search only the place described in a warrant, and usually can seize only the property that the warrant describes. The police cannot search a house if the warrant specifies the backyard, nor can they search for weapons if the warrant specifies marijuana plants. However, this does not mean that police officers can seize only those items listed in the warrant. If, in the course of their search, police officers come across contraband or evidence of a crime that is not listed in the warrant, they can lawfully seize the unlisted items.


    #2 05-25-2005, 09:38 PM
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    Search Warrants: What They Are & When They Are Necessary

    If the warrant specifies a certain person to be searched, the police can search only that person unless they have independent probable cause to search other persons who happen to be present at the scene of a search. However, if an officer has a reasonable suspicion that an onlooker is engaged in criminal activity, the officer can question the onlooker and, if necessary for the officer's safety, conduct a frisk for weapons.

    Technically, a person may require the police to produce a warrant before admitting them into his or her home for a search. However, people sometimes run into trouble when they "stand on their rights" in this way. A warrant is not always legally necessary, and a police officer may have information of which a person is unaware that allows the officer to make a warrantless entry. If an officer announces an intention to enter without a warrant, a person should not risk injury or a separate charge of "interfering with a police officer." Rather, the person should stand aside, let the officer proceed and allow a court to decide later whether the officer's actions were proper. At the same time, the person should make it clear that he or she does not consent to the search.

    When Search Warrants Aren't Required

    Most searches occur without warrants being issued. Over the years, the courts have defined a number of situations in which a search warrant is not necessary, either because the search is per se reasonable under the circumstances or because, due to a lack of a reasonable expectation of privacy, the Fourth Amendment doesn't apply at all.

    Consent Searches

    If the person in control of the premises to be searched freely and voluntarily agrees to the search, the search is valid and whatever the officers find is admissible in evidence. Police officers do not have to warn people that they have a right to refuse consent to a search. To constitute a valid consent to search, the consent must be given "freely and voluntarily." If a police officer wrangles a consent through trickery or coercion, the consent does not validate the search. Often, a defendant challenges a search on the ground that consent was not voluntary, only to have a police officer testify to a conflicting version of events that establishes a valid consent. In these conflict situations, judges tend to believe police officers unless defendants can support their claims through the testimony of other witnesses.Sometimes people who are intimidated by the police misinterpret the "request" to be a command and will allow the search. However, so long as an officer does not engage in threatening behavior -- such as placing their hand on a sidearm -- judges will not set aside otherwise genuine consents.

    Many disputes about consent have to do with who has the right to consent. For example, do parents have a right to consent to a search of their children's rooms? As a general rule, an adult in rightful possession of a house or apartment usually has legal authority to consent to a search of the entire premises. But if there are two or more separate tenants in one dwelling, courts often rule that one tenant has no power to consent to a search of the areas exclusively controlled by the other tenants (for instance, their separate bedrooms). Similarly, a landlord is not considered to be in possession of an apartment leased to a tenant, and therefore lacks authority to consent to a search of leased premises. The same is true for hotel operators. On the other hand, an employer can validly consent to a search of company premises, which extends to an employee's work area, such as a desk and machinery, but not to clearly private areas such as an employee's clothes locker.

    A tricky twist is that the consent in these types of cases will be considered valid if the police reasonably believe that the consenting person has the authority to consent, even if it turns out they don't.

    All advice is for informational/educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for a qualified legal counselor and in no way constitutes an attorney/client privilege................

  2. #2


    Posted by bigkarch on *************

    these are your rights...know them back and forth and what LE can can mean a difference from freedom to cell *****....

    Valid Searches and Seizures Without Warrants

    While the Supreme Court stresses the importance of warrants and has repeatedly referred to searches without warrants as ''exceptional,''1 it appears that the greater number of searches, as well as the vast number of arrests, take place without warrants. The Reporters of the American Law Institute Project on a Model Code of Pre- Arraignment Procedure have noted ''their conviction that, as a practical matter, searches without warrant and incidental to arrest have been up to this time, and may remain, of greater practical importance'' than searches pursuant to warrants. ''[T]he evidence on hand . . . compel[s] the conclusion that searches under warrants have played a comparatively minor part in law enforcement, except in connection with narcotics and gambling laws.''2 Nevertheless, the Court frequently asserts that ''the most basic constitutional rule in this area is that 'searches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment--subject only to a few specially established and well-delineated exceptions.''3 The exceptions are said to be ''jealously and carefully drawn,''4 and there must be ''a showing by those who seek exemption . . . that the exigencies of the situation made that course imperative.''5 While the record does indicate an effort to categorize the exceptions, the number and breadth of those exceptions have been growing.

    Detention Short of Arrest: Stop-and-Frisk.--Arrests are subject to the requirements of the Fourth Amendment, but the courts have followed the common law in upholding the right of police officers to take a person into custody without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has committed a felony or has committed a misdemeanor in their presence.6 The probable cause is, of course, the same standard required to be met in the issuance of an arrest warrant, and must be satisfied by conditions existing prior to the policeman's stop, what is discovered thereafter not sufficing to establish retroactively reasonable cause.7 There are, however, instances when a policeman's suspicions will have been aroused by someone's conduct or manner, but probable cause for placing such a person under arrest will be lacking.8 In Terry v. Ohio,9 the Court almost unanimously approved an on-the-street investigation by a police officer which involved ''patting down'' the subject of the investigation for weapons.

    The case arose when a police officer observed three individuals engaging in conduct which appeared to him, on the basis of training and experience, to be the ''casing'' of a store for a likely armed robbery; upon approaching the men, identifying himself, and not receiving prompt identification, the officer seized one of the men, patted the exterior of his clothes, and discovered a gun. Chief Justice Warren for the Court wrote that the Fourth Amendment was applicable to the situation, applicable ''whenever a police officer accosts an individual and restrains his freedom to walk away.''10 Since the warrant clause is necessarily and practically of no application to the type of on-the-street encounter present in Terry, the Chief Justice continued, the question was whether the policeman's actions were reasonable. The test of reasonableness in this sort of situation is whether the police officer can point to ''specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts,'' would lead a neutral magistrate on review to conclude that a man of reasonable caution would be warranted in believing that possible criminal behavior was at hand and that both an investigative stop and a ''frisk'' was required.11 Inasmuch as the conduct witnessed by the policeman reasonably led him to believe that an armed robbery was in prospect, he was as reasonably led to believe that the men were armed and probably dangerous and that his safety required a ''frisk.'' Because the object of the ''frisk'' is the discovery of dangerous weapons, ''it must therefore be confined in scope to an intrusion reasonably designed to discover guns, knives, clubs, or other hidden instruments for the assault of the police officer.''12 If, in the course of a weapons frisk, ''plain touch'' reveals presence of an object that the officer has probable cause to believe is contraband, the officer may seize that object.Supp.3 The Court viewed the situation as analogous to that covered by the ''plain view'' doctrine: obvious contraband may be seized, but a search may not be expanded to determine whether an object is contraband.Supp.4

    Terry did not pass on a host of problems, including the grounds that could permissibly lead an officer to momentarily stop a person on the street or elsewhere in order to ask questions rather than frisk for weapons, the right of the stopped individual to refuse to cooperate, and the permissible response of the police to that refusal. Following that decision, the standard for stops for investigative purposes evolved into one of ''reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.'' That test permits some stops and questioning without probable cause in order to allow police officers to explore the foun dations of their suspicions.13 While not elaborating a set of rules governing the application of the tests, the Court was initially restrictive in recognizing permissible bases for reasonable suspicion.14 Extensive instrusions on individual privacy, e.g., transportation to the stationhouse for interrogation and fingerprinting, were invalidated in the absence of probable cause.15 More recently, however, the Court has taken less restrictive approaches.16

    It took the Court some time to settle on a test for when a ''seizure'' has occurred, and the Court has recently modified its approach. The issue is of some importance, since it is at this point that Fourth Amendment protections take hold. The Terry Court recognized in dictum that ''not all personal intercourse between policemen and citizens involves 'seizures' of persons,'' and suggested that ''[o]nly when the officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has in some way restrained the liberty of a citizen may we conclude that a 'seizure' has occurred.''17 Years later Justice Stewart proposed a similar standard, that a person has been seized ''only if, in view of all of the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave.''18 This reasonable perception standard was subse quently endorsed by a majority of Justices,19 and was applied in several cases in which admissibility of evidence turned on whether a seizure of the person not justified by probable cause or reasonable suspicion had occurred prior to the uncovering of the evidence. No seizure occurred, for example, when INS agents seeking to identify illegal aliens conducted work force surveys within a garment factory; while some agents were positioned at exits, others systematically moved through the factory and questioned employees.20 This brief questioning, even with blocked exits, amounted to ''classic consensual encounters rather than Fourth Amendment seizures.''21 The Court also ruled that no seizure had occurred when police in a squad car drove alongside a suspect who had turned and run down the sidewalk when he saw the squad car approach. Under the circumstances (no siren, flashing lights, display of a weapon, or blocking of the suspect's path), the Court concluded, the police conduct ''would not have communicated to the reasonable person an attempt to capture or otherwise intrude upon [one's] freedom of movement.''22

    Soon thereafter, however, the Court departed from the Mendenhall reasonable perception standard and adopted a more formalistic approach, holding that an actual chase with evident intent to capture did not amount to a ''seizure'' because the suspect did not comply with the officer's order to halt. Mendenhall, said the Court in California v. Hodari D., stated a ''necessary'' but not a ''sufficient'' condition for a seizure of the person through show of authority.23 A Fourth Amendment ''seizure'' of the person, the Court determined, is the same as a common law arrest; there must be either application of physical force (or the laying on of hands), or submission to the assertion of authority.24 Indications are, however, that Hodari D. does not signal the end of the reasonable perception standard, but merely carves an exception applicable to chases and perhaps other encounters between suspects and police.

    Later in the same term the Court ruled that the Mendenhall ''free-to-leave'' inquiry was misplaced in the context of a police sweep of a bus, but that a modified reasonable perception approach still governed.25 In conducting a bus sweep, aimed at detecting illegal drugs and their couriers, police officers typically board a bus during a stopover at a terminal and ask to inspect tickets, identification, and sometimes luggage of selected passengers. The Court did not focus on whether an ''arrest'' had taken place, as adherence to the Hodari D. approach would have required, but instead suggested that the appropriate inquiry is ''whether a reasonable person would feel free to decline the officers' requests or otherwise terminate the encounter.''26 ''When the person is seated on a bus and has no desire to leave,'' the Court explained, ''the degree to which a reasonable person would feel that he or she could leave is not an accurate measure of the coercive effect of the encounter.''27

    A Terry search need not be limited to a stop and frisk of the person, but may extend as well to a protective search of the passenger compartment of a car if an officer possesses ''a reasonable belief, based on specific and articulable facts . . . that the suspect is dangerous and . . . may gain immediate control of weapons.''28 How lengthy a Terry detention may be varies with the circumstances. In approving a 20-minute detention of a driver made necessary by the driver's own evasion of drug agents and a state police decision to hold the driver until the agents could arrive on the scene, the Court indicated that it is ''appropriate to examine whether the police diligently pursued a means of investigation that was likely to confirm or dispel their suspicions quickly, during which time it was necessary to detain the defendant.''29

    Similar principles govern detention of luggage at airports in order to detect the presence of drugs; Terry ''limitations applicable to investigative detentions of the person should define the permissible scope of an investigative detention of the person's luggage on less than probable cause.''30 The general rule is that ''when an officer's observations lead him reasonably to believe that a traveler is carrying luggage that contains narcotics, the principles of Terry . . . would permit the officer to detain the luggage briefly to investigate the circumstances that aroused his suspicion, provided that the investigative detention is properly limited in scope.''31 Seizure of luggage for an expeditious ''canine sniff'' by a dog trained to detect narcotics can satisfy this test even though seizure of luggage is in effect detention of the traveler, since the procedure results in ''limited disclosure,'' impinges only slightly on a traveler's privacy interest in the contents of personal luggage, and does not constitute a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.32 By contrast, taking a suspect to an interrogation room on grounds short of probable cause, retaining his air ticket, and retrieving his luggage without his permission taints consent given under such circumstances to open the luggage, since by then the detention had exceeded the bounds of a permissible Terry investigative stop and amounted to an invalid arrest.33 But the same requirements for brevity of detention and limited scope of investigation are apparently inapplicable to border searches of international travelers, the Court having approved a 24-hour detention of a traveler suspected of smuggling drugs in her alimentary canal.34

    Search Incident to Arrest.--The common-law rule permitting searches of the person of an arrestee as an incident to the arrest has occasioned little controversy in the Court.35 The dispute has centered around the scope of the search. Since it was the stated general rule that the scope of a warrantless search must be strictly tied to and justified by the circumstances which rendered its justification permissible, and since it was the rule that the justification of a search of the arrestee was to prevent destruction of evidence and to prevent access to a weapon,36 it was argued to the court that a search of the person of the defendant arrested for a traffic offense, which discovered heroin in a crumpled cigarette package, was impermissible, inasmuch as there could have been no destructible evidence relating to the offense for which he was arrested and no weapon could have been concealed in the cigarette package. The Court rejected this argument, ruling that ''no additional justification'' is required for a custodial arrest of a suspect based on probable cause.37

    However, the Justices have long found themselves embroiled in argument about the scope of the search incident to arrest as it extends beyond the person to the area in which the person is arrested, most commonly either his premises or his vehicle. Certain early cases went both ways on the basis of some fine distinctions,38 but in Harris v. United States,39 the Court approved a search of a four-room apartment pursuant to an arrest under warrant for one crime and in which the search turned up evidence of another crime. A year later, in Trupiano v. United States,40 a raid on a distillery resulted in the arrest of a man found on the premises and a seizure of the equipment; the Court reversed the conviction because the officers had had time to obtain a search warrant and had not done so. ''A search or seizure without a warrant as an incident to a lawful arrest has always been considered to be a strictly limited right. It grows out of the inherent necessities of the situation at the time of the arrest. But there must be something more in the way of necessity than merely a lawful arrest.''41 This decision was overruled in United States v. Rabinowitz,42 in which officers arrested defendant in his one-room office pursuant to an arrest warrant and proceeded to search the room completely. The Court observed that the issue was not whether the officers had the time and opportunity to obtain a search warrant but whether the search incident to arrest was reasonable. Though Rabinowitz referred to searches of the area within the arrestee's ''immediate control,''43 it provided no standard by which this area was to be determined, and extensive searches were permitted under the rule.44

    In Chimel v. California,45 however, a narrower view was asserted, the primacy of warrants was again emphasized, and a standard by which the scope of searches pursuant to arrest could be ascertained was set out. ''When an arrest is made, it is reasonable for the arresting officer to search the person arrested in order to remove any weapons that the latter might seek to use in order to resist arrest or effect his escape. Otherwise, the officer's safety might well be endangered, and the arrest itself frustrated. In addition, it is entirely reasonable for the arresting officer to search for and seize any evidence on the arrestee's person in order to prevent its concealment or destruction. And the area into which an arrestee might reach in order to grab a weapon or evidentiary items must, of course, be governed by a like rule. A gun on a table or in a drawer in front of one who is arrested can be as dangerous to the arresting officer as one concealed in the clothing of the person arrested. There is ample justification, therefore, for a search of the arrestee's person and the area 'within his immediate control'--construing that phrase to mean the area from within which he might gain possession of a weapon or destructible evidence.

    ''There is no comparable justification, however, for routinely searching any room other than that in which an arrest occurs--or, for that matter, for searching through all the desk drawers or other closed or concealed areas in that room itself. Such searches, in the absence of well-recognized exceptions, may be made only under the authority of a search warrant.''46

    Although the viability of Chimel had been in doubt for some time as the Court refined and applied its analysis of reasonable and justifiable expectations of privacy,47 it has in some but not all contexts survived the changed rationale. Thus, in Mincey v. Arizona,48 the Court rejected a state effort to create a ''homicide-scene'' exception for a warrantless search of an entire apartment extending over four days. The occupant had been arrested and removed and it was true, the Court observed, that a person legally taken into custody has a lessened right of privacy in his person, but he does not have a lessened right of privacy in his entire house. And, in United States v. Chadwick,49 emphasizing a person's reasonable expectation of privacy in his luggage or other baggage, the Court held that, once police have arrested and immobilized a suspect, validly seized bags are not subject to search without a warrant.50 Police may, however, in the course of jailing an arrested suspect conduct an inventory search of the individual's personal effects, including the contents of a shoulder bag, since ''the scope of a station-house search may in some circumstances be even greater than those supporting a search immediately following arrest.''51

    Still purporting to reaffirm Chimel, the Court in New York v. Belton52 held that police officers who had made a valid arrest of the occupant of a vehicle could make a contemporaneous search of the entire passenger compartment of the automobile, including containers found therein. Believing that a fairly simple rule understandable to authorities in the field was desirable, the Court ruled ''that articles inside the relatively narrow compass of the passenger compartment of an automobile are in fact generally, if not inevitably, within 'the area into which an arrestee might reach in order to grab a weapon or evidentiary ite[m].'''53

    Chimel has, however, been qualified by another consideration. Not only may officers search areas within the arrestee's immediate control in order to alleviate any threat posed by the arrestee, but they may extend that search if there may be a threat posed by ''unseen third parties in the house.'' A ''protective sweep'' of the entire premises (including an arrestee's home) may be undertaken on less than probable cause if officers have a ''reasonable belief,'' based on ''articulable facts,'' that the area to be swept may harbor an individual posing a danger to those on the arrest scene.54

    Vehicular Searches.--In the early days of the automobile the Court created an exception for searches of vehicles, holding in Carroll v. United States55 that vehicles may be searched without warrants if the officer undertaking the search has probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains contraband. The Court explained that the mobility of vehicles would allow them to be quickly moved from the jurisdiction if time were taken to obtain a warrant.56

    Initially the Court limited Carroll's reach, holding impermissible the warrantless seizure of a parked automobile merely because it is movable, and indicating that vehicles may be stopped only while moving or reasonably contemporaneously with movement.57 Also, the Court ruled that the search must be reasonably contemporaneous with the stop, so that it was not permissible to remove the vehicle to the stationhouse for a warrantless search at the convenience of the police.58

    The Court next developed a reduced privacy rationale to supplement the mobility rationale, explaining that ''the configuration, use, and regulation of automobiles often may dilute the reasonable expectation of privacy that exists with respect to differently situated property.''59 '''One has a lesser expectation of privacy in a motor vehicle because its function is transportation and it seldom serves as one's residence or as the repository of personal effects. . . . It travels public thoroughfares where both its occupants and its contents are in plain view.'''60 While motor homes do serve as residences and as repositories for personal effects, and while their contents are often shielded from public view, the Court extended the automobile exception to them as well, holding that there is a diminished expectation of privacy in a mobile home parked in a parking lot and licensed for vehicular travel, hence ''readily mobile.''61

    The reduced expectancy concept has broadened police powers to conduct automobile searches without warrants, but they still must have probable cause to search a vehicle62 and they may not make random stops of vehicles on the roads, but instead must base stops of individual vehicles on probable cause or some ''articulable and reasonable suspicion''Supp.5 of traffic or safety violation or some other criminal activity.Supp.6 By contrast, fixed-checkpoint stops in the absence of any individualized suspicion have been upheld.64 Once police have validly stopped a vehicle, they may also, based on articulable facts warranting a reasonable belief that weapons may be present, conduct a Terry-type protective search of those portions of the passenger compartment in which a weapon could be placed or hidden.65 And, in the absence of such reasonable suspicion as to weapons, police may seize contraband and suspicious items ''in plain view'' inside the passenger compartment.66

    Once police have probable cause to believe there is contraband in a vehicle, they may remove it from the scene to the stationhouse in order to conduct a search, without thereby being required to obtain a warrant. ''[T]he justification to conduct such a warrantless search does not vanish once the car has been immobilized; nor does it depend upon a reviewing court's assessment of the likelihood in each particular case that the car would have been driven away, or that its contents would have been tampered with, during the period required for the police to obtain a warrant.''67 The Justices were evenly divided, however, on the propriety of warrantless seizure of an arrestee's automobile from a public parking lot several hours after his arrest, its transportation to a police impoundment lot, and the taking of tire casts and exterior paint scrapings.68 Because of the lessened expectation of privacy, inventory searches of impounded automobiles are justifiable in order to protect public safety and the owner's property, and any evidence of criminal activity discovered in the course of the inventories is admissible in court.69

    It is not lawful for the police in undertaking a warrantless search of an automobile to extend the search to the passengers therein.70 But because passengers in an automobile have no reasonable expectation of privacy in the interior area of the car, a warrantless search of the glove compartment and the spaces under the seats, which turned up evidence implicating the passengers, invaded no Fourth Amendment interest of the passengers.71 Luggage and other closed containers found in automobiles may also be subjected to warrantless searches based on probable cause, the same rule now applying whether the police have probable cause to search only the containers72 or whether they have probable cause to search the automobile for something capable of being held in the container.73

    All advice is for informational/educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for a qualified legal counselor and in no way constitutes an attorney/client privilege................

  3. #3


    one more

    The Plain View Doctrine

    Police officers do not need a warrant to search and seize contraband or evidence that is "in plain view" if the officer is where he or she has a right to be when the evidence or contraband is first spotted. For instance, the police may search for and seize marijuana growing outdoors if they first spot the marijuana from an airplane or helicopter, since the marijuana is deemed to be in plain view. Similarly, if an officer walks by a car and spots evidence or contraband through the car window, the plain view doctrine applies and a search may be conducted without a warrant. The same rule would apply if an officer is in your home for other valid reasons and spots drugs on a table or cabinet.

    Search Made in Connection With an Arrest

    Police officers do not need a warrant to make a search "incident to an arrest." After an arrest, police officers have the right to protect themselves by searching for weapons and to protect the legal case against the suspect by searching for evidence that the suspect might try to destroy. Assuming that the officer has probable cause to make the arrest in the first place, a search of the person and the person's surroundings following the arrest is valid, and any evidence uncovered is admissible at trial.

    To justify a search as incident to an arrest, a spatial relationship must exist between the arrest and the search. The general rule is that after arrest the police may search a defendant and the area within a defendant's immediate control. For example, an arresting officer may search not only a suspect's clothes, but also the suspect's wallet or purse. If an arrest takes place in a kitchen, the arresting officer can probably search the kitchen, but not the rest of the house. If an arrest takes place outside a house, the arresting officer cannot search the house at all. To conduct a search broader in scope than a defendant and the area within the defendant's immediate control, an officer would have to obtain a warrant. However, the police may make what's known as a "protective sweep" following an arrest. When making a protective sweep, police officers can walk through a residence and make a "cursory visual inspection" of places where an accomplice might be hiding. For example, police officers could look under beds and inside closets. To justify making a protective sweep, police officers must have a reasonable belief that a dangerous accomplice might be hiding inside a residence. If a sweep is lawful, the police can lawfully seize contraband or evidence of crime that is in plain view.

    Searches of Cars and Their Occupants

    Cars may be searched without a warrant whenever the car has been validly stopped and the police have probable cause to believe the car contains contraband or evidence. The reasons why no warrant is required for a car search are:

    cars are easily moved and may disappear while a warrant is being sought, and
    people driving cars do not have the same expectation of privacy in cars as they do in their homes.
    If the police have probable cause to search the car, all compartments and packages that may contain the evidence or contraband being searched for are fair game.

    While a police officer cannot search a car simply because the car was stopped for a traffic infraction -- since routine traffic stops are not arrests that would justify a "search incident to an arrest" -- the police can order the driver and any passengers out of the car for safety considerations, even though there is no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing other than the traffic infraction. The police also can "frisk" the occupants for weapons so long as they have a "reasonable suspicion" that the occupants are involved in criminal activity beyond the traffic violation and are reasonably concerned for their safety.

    The police are sometimes accused of using technical traffic violations as a pretext for stopping the car for the real reason of conducting a further investigation that often includes a frisk and possible search of the vehicle. Sometimes these types of stops are allegedly based on racial profiling. Whatever the police officer's motives, however, if the officer had a valid reason to stop the vehicle, even a ticky-tack one like a broken rear taillight, the stop is legal. And, if the initial stop is valid, any lawful frisk, search or arrest that follows the stop is also valid.
    All advice is for informational/educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for a qualified legal counselor and in no way constitutes an attorney/client privilege................

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