Can the police search my house without a search warrant? 49 Answers as of December 16, 2010

The police officers came to me house to arrest me for my 4 traffic warrants. They then put me in handcuffs and put me in the back seat of a cop car while they ran the Vehicle Identification Numbers of my cars and motorcycle. But at the same time they started to search my residence! They found 6 rifles in my house and now I am in jail facing a 6 year sentence for a gun charge. Did they have a right to enter my house without a search warrant? This is 6+ years of my life that I could lose and I need all the help I can get.

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Edward  D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law
Edward D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law | Edward D. Dowling IV
First by way of disclaimer this reply is general advice only, a more specific answer could be given if you contact me further and provide further information, also this reply does not establish an attorney client relationship- that would occur if you contact me and retain me. However in general the police can not search your house without a warrant unless you give your permission or if something is in plain sight then they can go in and search.If you have been convicted and are serving a sentence ( as opposed to being detained pending trial ) then I would ask if you or your attorney filed a Notice of Appeal and if so do you have an appellate attorney. Looking forward to hearing from you.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 12/16/2010
Harrison & Harrison
Harrison & Harrison | Samuel Harrison
The short answer to the question is NO. The Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable searches has some exceptions that would allow an officer to search a home without a warrant, but the facts you set out do not include any of the exceptions. Even if for some odd reason the rifles were were visible to the officers when they arrested you, The correct procedure would have been to either radio in and ask someone to get a warrant or to leave an officer at the house and have another officer apply for the warrant.

This answer assumes you were not on probation or parole and had not signed a waiver of your Fourth Amendment rights as part of that sentence. IF that is the case, the waiver may allow them to conduct the search you describe.
Answer Applies to: Georgia
Replied: 12/16/2010
Karmali Law Office, PLLC
Karmali Law Office, PLLC | Hussein Karmali
I would need additional information to be able to answer your question such as what kind of cases had a warrant.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 12/15/2010
Law Offices of Scott G. Hilderman
Law Offices of Scott G. Hilderman | Scott G. Hilderman
The police may search your house under certain circumstances without a warrant. In this case they had one or more warrants for your arrest. Subsequent to an arrest, they may search the local area for firearms and other people for officer safety. It really depends on where you were when they searched your house. If you were outside then they would have a difficult time in justifying the search of your house. If they arrested you inside the house then the could do a search. However, the search must be limited in scope to those areas that could cause a problem for the police. It is a complicated area of the law and I cannot provide with a better answer without more information.
Answer Applies to: Montana
Replied: 12/15/2010
William C. Gosnell, Attorney at Law
William C. Gosnell, Attorney at Law | William C. Gosnell
No the search of your house was warrantless and illegal.

They can enter your house to arrest you but once you are secured in a squad car they cannot search your house without a warrant.
Answer Applies to: Tennessee
Replied: 12/15/2010
    Avioli Law, P.C.
    Avioli Law, P.C. | Michael Avioli
    No. Unless you consent. Call me to retain me and I will aggressively defend you.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 12/15/2010
    Allan & Summary
    Allan & Summary | Justin Summary
    Normally they would need consent from whomever owns the home or is on the lease before they could search the home. There are a few other instances where they could search the home without a warrant but I would have to see the police reports before I could tell you whether the search was justified or not. Give me a call if you would like to discuss this.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 12/15/2010
    Law Offices of Ryan P. Murphy
    Law Offices of Ryan P. Murphy | Ryan P. Murphy
    Under our Constitution, the police need a warrant to search your home. There are exceptions to the requirement that a search warrant is needed. If your case falls within a exception, then the police officers can search certain areas within your home, and possibly the entire house.

    Should you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact my office at your earliest convenience.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 12/14/2010
    Law Office of Jonathan T. Sarre
    Law Office of Jonathan T. Sarre | Jonathan T. Sarre
    While it can be said that there is a preference among courts for a search warrant, exceptions to constitutional search warrant requirements do exist. Whether such an exception applies in your case is fact specific and more information would be necessary regarding the circumstances of your arrest and what may have been going on at your home when the cops arrived.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 12/14/2010
    The Law Office of Eric R. Chandler, P.C., L.L.O.
    The Law Office of Eric R. Chandler, P.C., L.L.O. | Eric R. Chandler
    It depends. That kind of situation is extremely fact dependent. I assume you have already spoken to either your lawyer or public defender about this; however if for some odd reason you have not, you should immediately.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 12/14/2010
    The Law Office of B. Elaine Jones
    The Law Office of B. Elaine Jones | B. Elaine Jones
    If the traffic warrants you are talking about relate to driving a motor vehicle and not trafficing in drugs, they do not have the right to search your home without a warrant. The evidence should be thrown out if you make the right legal argument. Please contact LawQA if you would like representation regarding this matter and they can provide you with my contact information.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 11/30/2010
    Jackson White, PC
    Jackson White, PC | Jeremy Geigle
    The Constitutions provides that you should be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. And normally a warrant would be required to search your home. There are however exceptions to the warrant requirement such as consent, emergency, search incident to arrest, and items in plain view. Officers may also make a protective sweep of an area if they believe accomplices may be present. If you did not give consent, perhaps the officers had sufficient information to obtain a warrant to search your home. Were you shown a copy of a warrant? If not, you may have the ability to motion the court to suppress the evidence gathered during the warrantless/unconstitutional search.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 11/29/2010
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
    In Missouri, the police can always search you incident to arrest. They can usually also search your car incident to arrest. If they come into your house during the arrest, they can seize anything in plain sight. If they actually start going through your things (closets, drawers, etc) and they are only there for traffic tickets, they have gone too far. They need a warrant. However, it is possible that they had a warrant to search for something else, and will say that they stumbled across the guns in the course of the warrant-authorized search. Also, many officers will testify that you gave consent for them to search your house - it becomes your word against their word.

    These situations are very fact-specific. If you want an actual answer, you should consult with an attorney licensed in your state.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 11/28/2010
    Law Office of Marc K. Herbert
    Law Office of Marc K. Herbert | Marc K. Herbert
    Usually, police officers need a search warrant to search any house. However, there are many exceptions to this rule.

    A"search term" is a common feature of an grant of probation or parole.A police officer can search an area nearby incident to arrestor can be given consent to search a house. Finally, police officers may do a "protective sweep" of a house and all evidence sen in plain view can be used againt you.

    If the police did not have a warrant, they must prove how they legally seized this evidence. You should contact an experienced defense attorney to help you with this case.

    If you have any other questions about this case, please contact my office.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/27/2010
    The Law Office of Matt A. Stockdale, PLLC
    The Law Office of Matt A. Stockdale, PLLC | Matt A. Stockdale
    There are exceptions to the general rule requiring a search warrant. I was not provided enough information to determine whether one
    of these exceptions apply.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 11/26/2010
    Reeves Law Firm, P.C.
    Reeves Law Firm, P.C. | Roy L. Reeves
    Based on the facts you have given, the answer is NO. The cops violated your rights. There are exceptions to the search and seizure rules, and I or the attorney you choose would need much more information to distinguish if you fit within one of those exceptions.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 11/26/2010
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    It is imperative that you retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help you with your criminal case as soon as possible. As criminal defense lawyers, we at the Goolsby Law Firm, LLC know that search and seizure issues generally require a lot of legal research, after examining all the facts. Although exceptions exist to the general rule that the police need a search warrant in this context, there may be a good legal challenge in your case which you should discuss with your own criminal attorney. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 11/26/2010
    McWhirter Law Firm
    McWhirter Law Firm | Barry McWhirter
    As a general rule, the police cannot search your house without a search warrant. There are a few exceptions to that rule, but it doesn't sound like any of them apply in your situation.
    Answer Applies to: Tennessee
    Replied: 11/25/2010
    The Poster Law Firm, PLLC
    The Poster Law Firm, PLLC | Rick D Poster
    You have several issues. Best to consult an attorney soon.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 11/25/2010
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
    Based on your description of the events, the search of your residence sounds unlawful. While they can enter your home with a warrant in order to arrest you they can only search the area immediately around you and your person. If they see, however, illegal things while they are arresting you they can often seize them. Going back into the house to search it after you have
    been arrested does not sound like it comes within the recognized exceptions to a search warrant being required for the search of a residence. Your attorney needs to obtain the police report. The police may be claiming that you have consent to search the house in which case he or she will need to bring a motion to suppress the evidence at a special hearing.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/25/2010
    Austin Legal Services, PLC
    Austin Legal Services, PLC | Jared Austin
    Usually the answer is no, the police cannot search your home without a warrant unless one of the exceptions to search warrants apply. However, from the facts you have given me it doesn't sound like any of the exceptions do. I would strongly suggest you speak to and retain an experienced criminal lawyer soon. They will be better able to tell you how to fight it and what motions to file. Feel free to call for a free consultation.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 11/24/2010
    Law Office of Michael E. Hendrickson
    Law Office of Michael E. Hendrickson | Michael E. Hendrickson
    If police officers show up at a house with a valid warrant to arrest an occupant, they are entitled to search only the immediate area of the home in which the occupant is arrested for purposes of ensuring officer safety.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 11/24/2010
    Lawrence Lewis
    Lawrence Lewis | Lawrence Lewis, PC
    Here is the reality. You need all the help you are willing to pay for. You are facing six plus years in prison, and you are hoping to fish for some advice on-line, with which to harass the public defender who will represent you. Fourth amendment motions to suppress are extremely complex, with judicial decisions turning on nuances in the law and presentation of the facts. Get your money together (sell all of the many vehicles that you have, if you value your freedom) and hire a real attorney. That is all you need to knwo about whether the police can search your home without a warrant.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 11/24/2010
    Law Office of Robert L Keates, PLLC
    Law Office of Robert L Keates, PLLC | Robert Keates
    An arrest warrant alone, without a search warrant for the home, will not permit a search of the home. However, often times officers will apply for both at the same time. What could be an issue is what they were allowed to search for when the problem was traffic tickets. If you had a warrant out for gun charges, that would be different, but you may have a decent motion to suppress based on what you have written so far.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 11/24/2010
    The Connelly Firm P.C.
    The Connelly Firm P.C. | Thomas Connelly
    No. You clearly have an expectation of privacy in your own home, protected under the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution and applicable to the states under the 14th Amendment. They will probably say that you or someone with "apparent" authority gave them permission to search your home, or that they were searching the immediate vicinity to "secure" it incidental to your arrest, however. You need to retain legal counsel, who should file a motion to suppress the fruits of the search. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 11/24/2010
    Expert Bronx Criminal Lawyers
    Expert Bronx Criminal Lawyers | Alexander Sanchez
    Usually not, unless you gave permission to the police, or there was "exigent" circumstances justifying the search of the house. Exigent circumstances usually refer to something like an emergency situation, i.e., screams in the house, for example. Your lawyer should submit a motion to suppress all evidentiary items recovered on the grounds it violated the 4th Amendment barring unreasonable searches and seizures.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 11/24/2010
    The Law Offices of Robert L. Driessen
    The Law Offices of Robert L. Driessen | Robert L. Driessen
    You should hire an attorney to assist you. There does appear to be an issue with the search but one would need more information to be certain.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/7/2010
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    Challenging the validity of a search may often result in the suppression of evidence resulting from the search. Whether or not a search is valid, or whether arguments exist that it was a violation of the fourteenth amendment and State constitutional protections requires a full review of the facts of the case. Accordingly, you would be wise to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer. As a general rule, law enforcement may not make a search without a valid warrant supported by probable cause. There are, however, numerous warrant exceptions including cases where contraband is in plain sight, where the search is related to officer safety, or where exigent circumstances exist supported by additional probable case. Running VIN numbers would certainly be suspect where the officers were on the premises related to an arrest warrant and where the person was not in the vehicle. The search would require manipulating the vehicle by opening doors and locating the Vin numbers manually. In such a case, it would seem that strong arguments exist to challenge the search as unconstitutional.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 10/7/2010
    Law Office of Cotter C. Conway
    Law Office of Cotter C. Conway | Cotter C. Conway
    It is the general rule that police must have a valid search warrant to search any property. However, there are a number of exceptions. For example, they can search you incident to your arrest without a warrant. That would not include your house especially after you had already been removed from the house. You should definitely contact me for a free consultation.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 10/7/2010
    Anderson & Carnahan
    Anderson & Carnahan | Stephen Anderson
    A police officer can search a house without a warrant in limited circumstances. Talk to an attorney to challenge the search.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 10/7/2010
    The Law Offices of Robert A. Levine
    The Law Offices of Robert A. Levine | Michael G. Levine
    There are exceptions to the requirement that police obtain a search warrant prior to searching a person's home. You do have 4th Amendment protections and they are strongest with respect to your home. That said, I would need more information to specifically address your situation. This is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.
    Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
    Replied: 10/7/2010
    Alanna D. Coopersmith, Attorney at Law
    Alanna D. Coopersmith, Attorney at Law | Alanna D. Coopersmith
    Unless you are on probation or parole with a search and seizure clause or someone else who resides there consented to the search, it sounds like you have a good motion challenging the legality of the officers actions under the Fourth Amendment. If you win the motion, called a motion to suppress, the evidence will be excluded and in all likelihood the case will be dismissed.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/7/2010
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    They can take what is in plain sight if there are certain circumstances. If you need an attorney and have one thousand as a retainer call me.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/6/2010
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    The traffic warrants are sufficient for the police to enter and arrest you. However, the search inside the house may not be legal if it was not considered "incidental to a lawful arrest." You need to contact a lawyer ASAP.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/6/2010
    Law Office of Geoffrey M. Yaryan
    Law Office of Geoffrey M. Yaryan | Geoffrey M. Yaryan
    No, the United States Constitution would require a search warrant under the circumstances you described.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/6/2010
    The English Law Firm
    The English Law Firm | Robert English
    Generally speaking, there are exceptions to the warrant requirement. In your matter, they had a valid arrest warrant so they can arrest you. They can also do a walkthrough of your property for other parties and officer safety. This is generally referred to as clearing the residence. There are factual questions that come into play in this matter so you need to talk to an attorney. Normally, they would not be able to search a small drawer for example. A closet large enough to hold a person would be reasonable.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/6/2010
    Smith & John
    Smith & John | Kenneth Craig Smith, Jr.
    They cannot search your house without a warrant.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 10/6/2010
    Prometheus: A Social Justice Law Firm
    Prometheus: A Social Justice Law Firm | Aly Ebrahimzadeh
    It really depends on the circumstances, as there are various exceptions to the need for a warrant (e.g., Plain View Doctrine, Emergency Circumstances/ Hot Pursuit). Unfortunately, I need a bit more detail. Please call me for a consultation.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/12/2010
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
    Searches by the police are very involved and, therefore, much more information is needed to give you the right answer. Please contact me so I can help you.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/11/2010
    Steven Mandell
    Steven Mandell | Law Offices of Steven Mandell
    A recent Supreme Court case may mean that the seizure of the rifles was illegal and the evidence and cannot be used against you. But this is a very preliminary prediction and more facts are needed to know whether it is illegal or not. What you need in this situation is an experienced criminal lawyer, and I would be happy to discuss this with you further. Feel free to call me for a free consultation. But you NEED a criminal lawyer. Period.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/11/2010
    Criminal Defense, Inc.
    Criminal Defense, Inc. | Chad Lewin
    It depends on many factors whether this was a legal search or not. You should have an attorney experienced with search and seizure law representing you. Call me or have a family member contact me for a consultation.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/11/2010
    Law Offices of Ramona Hallam
    Law Offices of Ramona Hallam | Ramona Hallam
    Police officers need either (1) an arrest warrant or (2) probable and exigent circumstances to lawfully enter a persons home to arrest its occupant. (Kirk v. Louisiana (2002) 536 U.S. 635 [153 L.Ed.2nd 599].) Once in the house, if they have a search warrant, they can legally search. If you or someone residing in the house gave permission for a search, then it is okay. If you were in the house when the arrest began and there was something in plain sight or within your reach, they do not have to ignore it but can seize it. If they have a warrant only for your arrest, they have the right, based upon the authority of the arrest warrant, to search anywhere in the house that you might have been found. (Maryland v. Buie (1990) 494 U.S. 325, 330 [108 L.Ed.2nd 276, 283].) The inquiry is a factual inquiry based upon the circumstances moment by moment.They are allowed to do a search but only in specified circumstances. You really should retain counsel to analyze the facts of your case and bring a motion to suppress, or to introduce evidence at your preliminary hearing. There are so many factors that it is difficult to assess without police reports and witness statements.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/11/2010
    The Law Offices of Monty Gill
    The Law Offices of Monty Gill | Monty Gill
    Generally, the police need a search warrant in order to search your home. However, under certain circumstances, typically called "exigent circumstances", it is possible for a search of the residence to take place without a warrant. Whether the search of your residence without a warrant was legal depends on the particular and specific circumstances of your case. If your case is in Ventura County, then please feel free to call me to discuss further.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/11/2010
    Robert P. Jarvis, PC
    Robert P. Jarvis, PC | David Anderson
    The devil is always in the details. Lets clarify some assumptions. First, we assume that the police had a valid ARREST warrant. Next, lets assume that the police did not have a SEARCH warrant. With those two assumptions, lets address your situation. The law allows for a SEARCH INCIDENT TO ARREST. Which means that if they have a valid reason to arrest you, they can search the area near you. There is also a plain view exception. If the rifles were located near you when you were arrested or in plain view to the officers at the time they arrested you then most judges will find the search legal. If, however, you were arrested, placed in the back of a patrol car and THEN the police return to the home to perform a search without a warrant they will have some difficulty with that search. Two other details are worth mentioning. If someone ALLOWED/GAVE PERMISSION for the police to search the home then the search will be valid. Next, Arizona is fairly PRO police officer, and the cops know it.

    From what is described in the email, the only legal justification for a search, is a search incident to arrest, which is limited to the area where the arrest took place and is limited by time; meaning once the police have you secured and in custody they cannot go back and conduct a search. So, some important questions to ask would be: 1) specifically where did they arrest you? Outside the house, at the front door, inside the house? Did they have to forcibly enter the house to get you out? How many officers were present for the arrest and search? When you were arrested, did some officers stay inside your house while others took you outside? Where were the guns located inside the home? Where were the guns located inside the home in relation to you? For instance, if the police enter your bedroom to arrest you and they find one gun in the area where you are, they are probably justified in expanding their search a little further.

    From what you have described, the search is definitely worth fighting. If you do not fight for your rights, the rest of us lose ours, gradually.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 8/11/2010
    Law Offices of Juan Dotson
    Law Offices of Juan Dotson | Juan Dotson
    Generally NO, the police cannot search your home without a warrant. There are exceptions to the rule against unreasonable searches or seizures. One exception is a search incident to an arrest. Please read my websites brief article on search warrant basics: dotsondefense.com/post/Search-warrants-The-Basics.aspx. You should hire an attorney immediately.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/11/2010
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