Is a search legal without a warrant? 50 Answers as of July 02, 2013

The police searched a house without a search warrant, after receiving a house key from a neighbor, while the sole owner of the apartment was away. Was the search justified and legal without a search warrant?

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Law Office of William L Spern | William Spern
Why did the neighbor have the key? If the neighbor had access, it could be argued that the house owner gave permission that the neighbor approved to search the house.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 12/12/2011
Law Offices of Martina A. Vigil, PC
Law Offices of Martina A. Vigil, PC | Martina A. Vigil
In California, the government is required to have a search warrant in order to enter someone's home without their consent. There are a few exceptions such as seeing a crime take place or if taking the time to obtain a warrant would risk destruction of evidence. Your question is fact specific but you should call an attorney right away to discuss your rights.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 12/12/2011
Law Offices of Sean Logue
Law Offices of Sean Logue | Sean Logue
It depends if the search was for an emergency. Google exigent circumstances.
Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
Replied: 7/2/2013
Law Office of Phillip Weiser
Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
You have not given enough information for an opinion to be formed. If there is a questionable search, an attorney would usually file a motion to have the facts disclosed so a Judge could rule as to the legality of the search.
Answer Applies to: Kansas
Replied: 12/7/2011
Law Office of Richard Williams
Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
There are exceptions to a requirement for a search warrant for the police to search premises. If the search was an unlawful search it means that any contraband would be subject to being suppressed.
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 12/7/2011
    Myles Hahn III Attorney at Law | Myles Hahn III
    If you are at risk, then you should discuss the case in person with an attorney. Some judges will not allow police officers and State's Attorneys to use evidence recovered from a person's home against them at trial (such as guns or drugs). However, if the judge finds that there was an emergency or even "exigent circumstance", then judges can allow recovered evidence to be used at trial, even without a search warrant.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 12/6/2011
    Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC
    Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC | Jacob Peter Sartz IV
    There could be issues with that search. If there were any issues with the search, any evidence allegedly seized may be suppressed by a timely filed and well researched motion to suppress. If the police's conduct was especially negligent, it may be grounds for a possible civil lawsuit; however, mostly, improper searches are an issue if the Prosecutor seeks to introduce that evidence in a pending criminal charge.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 12/6/2011
    Law Firm of Martin & Wallentine
    Law Firm of Martin & Wallentine | Jerry Lee Wallentine Jr.
    Probably not legal. However, there are circumstances when searches are allowed, even without a warrant. We would need to know the full situation to make a complete legal analysis.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 12/6/2011
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law | Jules Fiani
    Yes.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/31/2013
    The Law Office of Cindy Barton
    The Law Office of Cindy Barton | Cindy Barton
    A search is legal without a warrant if they have permission. The question here is did the person that gave them the key have authority to give permission. This is a question of fact that I would probably ask the judge on the case to decide.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 12/6/2011
    Meyer & Kiss, LLC | Daniel Kiss
    This is not a legal search, based on what you've offered. I say this assuming that the neighbor has no ownership of the house and is not a resident. The fact that the police used a borrowed key instead of just breaking in indicates that they did not get a judge to approve entry beforehand. I'm also assuming there were no "exigent circumstances," which is an exception that allows the police enter without a warrant if they're in hot pursuit of a suspect, responding to a cry for help, or something along these lines.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law | Charles M. Schiff
    In order to lawfully search a residence without a warrant, police need to establish "consent" or "exigent circumstances". Based upon your description of events, it would appear that the police are claiming "consent". I am in no position to say whether this particular search meets the factors necessary to establish consent. You need to challenge the search, by Motion to the court, in order to obtain a court determination specific to your case.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Cynthia Henley, Lawyer
    Cynthia Henley, Lawyer | Cynthia Henley
    Since the neighbor had the key, then it appeared to police (an important legal point) that the neighbor had been given permission to enter and thus permission to allow access to others. MAYBE. This would be the argument of the State bit the defense would counter that giving a neighbor a key does not give or even appear to give the neighbor the right to let anyone else in. This is an interesting issue and needs in-depth research.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Law Office of Ronald Aronds, LLC
    Law Office of Ronald Aronds, LLC | Ronald Aronds
    Probably not, but ultimately it would be up to a judge to decide the legality of the search. If it was the landlord who opened the apartment for the cops it may possibly have greater merit than if it was just a random neighbor.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Robert Valles and Associates P.C.
    Robert Valles and Associates P.C. | Robert Valles Jr.
    Under just those circumstances you just mentioned, no the search is not legal.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Betts Legal Services
    Betts Legal Services | Shawn M. Betts
    There could be an argument either way. Normally a neighbor could not give consent to a neighbor to search another apartment. However if the neighbor had a key then there could be implied authority over the other apartment given the neighbor's ability to access the apartment.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Law Office of Michael E. Hendrickson
    Law Office of Michael E. Hendrickson | Michael E. Hendrickson
    The search by police as described may well have been illegal and therefore subject to challenge in court.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Shane Law Office
    Shane Law Office | Robert J. Shane
    Yes, the search of the house without a warrant was legal. Since the neighbor was given the key to the premises, he had authority to grant consent to the police to conduct a search of the premises without a warrant.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Fitzpatrick, Mariano, & Santos, PC
    Fitzpatrick, Mariano, & Santos, PC | Raymond J. Savoy
    A search without a warrant is valid under limited circumstances. From the scenario you described, the police may not have a valid reason to search without first obtaining a warrant.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Thomas C. Brandstrader Attorney At Law | Thomas C. Brandstrader
    On those facts the answer is no unless there was an exigent circumstance at play (someone in distress in the home).
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Law Office of James A Schoenberger
    Law Office of James A Schoenberger | James A Schoenberger
    Volumes have been written about search and seizure law. Generally, a search without a warrant, the owner's permission, or certain exigent circumstances (like public safety) is not legal.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Kevin Smith, Attorney at Law
    Kevin Smith, Attorney at Law | Kevin Smith
    Certainly illegal, unless the State can prove some exception to the warrant requirement. This is an issue your lawyer will need to research and brief thoroughly and then demand a suppression hearing.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Michael Breczinski
    Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
    No the search was not legal unless there was an exception, like there was smoke coming from the house or the neighbor reported some one breaking into the house.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Law Offices of James A Bates
    Law Offices of James A Bates | James A Bates
    There must be some sort of emergency to justify a search of a home without the resident's consent or a search warrant. The neighbor cannot consent to the search. Every bit of evidence the cops found should be deemed unusable in court.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Harden Law Offices
    Harden Law Offices | Leonard D. Harden
    It all depends on facts, but it seems like a legitimate violation of search and seizure law. You will need a good defense lawyer to fully explore the facts and seek suppression.
    Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Law Office of James S. Lochead
    Law Office of James S. Lochead | James S. Lochead
    Absolutely not. Just because the neighbor had a key does not give him the authority to consent to the search of another person's residence. Absent consent, the authorities need a warrant.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Law Office of Kathryn L. Hudson
    Law Office of Kathryn L. Hudson | Kathryn L. Hudson
    The Fourth Amendment prohibits the search or seizure of private property without a warrant issued by a neutral magistrate and the warrant must articulate with particularity the place to searched and the things to be seized. The search you describe would be illegal and anything seized could not be used as evidence. If the police entered the home by using a key taken from someone other than the homeowner or lawful tenant to enter a property absent and emergency they have committed a trespass and could face prosecution themselves.
    Answer Applies to: Arkansas
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    Only if there was probable cause. For example, if a neighbor told the cop he witnessed illegal activity inside.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Law Office of Christopher G Humphrey PC | Christopher G Humphrey
    You may be able to suppress the search, if there were no other facts you left out, nor 'exigent' circumstances, like a report of a murder in progress, kidnapping, drugs being flushed, or fugitive of law. There are narrow exceptions to the warrant rule. We have to know why the neighbor has the key, and what access the nieghbor had. There may have been some implied consent. Also, if the police were lead to believe that the nieghbor was an occupant of the house, there may be some exceptions there. talk to a reputable criminal defense theory. there is very few definate illegal searches, but you definately have an issue.
    Answer Applies to: Wyoming
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Baner and Baner
    Baner and Baner | Jonathan Baner
    What I mean to say is this: when someone is arrested for a criminal offense they are either appointed an attorney or they hire one (if they chose to go without an attorney they are utterly without reason, and are ignored for our discussions here). Thus, either this question is ENTIRELY hypothetical, or it should be evaluated on the actual facts of the case by the attorney of record. If ENTIRELY hypothetical then a key does no more to present valid consent then does a brick applied to a window. If NOT ENTIRELY hypothetical: TALK TO YOUR ATTORNEY.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Lewin & Lewin | Robert D. Lewin
    The general rule in Massachusetts is that a search of a house (or apartment) without a warrant is unlawful. To this general rule there are a number of exceptions. One exception is a search conducted with the consent of the owner of the apartment. The law recognizes that persons other than the owner may give a valid consent for a search without a warrant. A third person who possessed common authority over the apartment or its contents - for example a roommate or co-tenant who still lived in the apartment - could give valid consent for a search without a warrant. In the case you present the neighbor had a key. The neighbor's relationship to the apartment, why they had a key, the neighbor's use of the apartment (if any), what specific permission the neighbor was given, and questions like these go into the mix in determining whether the neighbor had authority - actual or apparent - to consent to a search by the police without a warrant. If, for example, the neighbor was given a key solely to water the plants and gather the mail, then an argument could be made that the neighbor did not have the authority to consent to a warrantless search of the apartment. These cases are very fact specific.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Law Office of Rankin Johnson IV, LLC
    Law Office of Rankin Johnson IV, LLC | Rankin Johnson IV
    There are a lot of exceptions to the warrant requirement, but you didn't provide facts that would justify the search. It is possible, but unlikely, that the neighbor had the authority to consent to a search by the police. Did they find anything? If so, talk to a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    The police need an emergency, or a search warrant, or permission from the owner or tenant to search a home, car, or apartment. If the person that gave them the key was not the landlord or a tenant then the search was illegal. your attorney will run a suppression and the evidence will not be available at trial. The case will then be dismissed unless the police have other evidence that was not the product of the illegal search. Even a confession that resulted from the illegal search is inadmissible at trial.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
    To make any search the police need reasonable cause. If the police had information that there was evidence of illegal activities going on in the home and that there was a chance that the evidence would be destroyed if they waited for a warrant then they could make the search. Searches depend on the facts. Sit down with an attorney and give him all the facts.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Law & Mediation Office of Jeffrey L. Pollock, Esq.
    Law & Mediation Office of Jeffrey L. Pollock, Esq. | Jeffrey Lawrence Pollock
    It would appear that the rightful possessor did not grant the consent needed to obviate the need for a warrant.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Hammerschmidt Broughton Law
    Hammerschmidt Broughton Law | Mark A. Broughton
    This is an interesting situation. I have a case on appeal right now on an issue very much like this one. The answer really depends on the exact fact of the case. I can't go into a lengthy recitation on search and seizure law here, but generally, the police need a warrant, "exigent circumstances," or consent to enter a residence. Your situation falls into the area of consent even though the owner didn't give actual consent. If the police were acting in good faith on the ostensible authority of the neighbor, the search may be upheld. There are some very interesting cases dealing with situations like this - some allowing the search, others saying the police should have had a warrant. There is a very thin line between a justified and an unjustified search. The best advise is to consult with a good criminal defense attorney who can explore all the facts and law of the case.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    May depend on how the neighbor had a key. But this does not sound like a good search.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Anderson Law Office
    Anderson Law Office | Scott L. Anderson
    The police need a warrant, exigent circumstances or consent if a warrant is not executed.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Andersen Law PLLC
    Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
    I haven't been given much relevant information but in general, the police must have a search warrant to enter a private residence absent consent, hot pursuit or some exigent circumstances, such as seeing a dead body . Your neighbor cannot give consent to search your home unless he is also a resident of the home. Even then, he or she can only consent to a search of his or her room and the common areas. If the authorities illegally searched your home, all of the evidence they found should be thrown out of court and you could sue the officers and their department for violating your civil rights. If you are charged, your lawyer should address the part about throwing out the evidence.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S.
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S. | Steve Freeborn
    The neighbor had the key. Sounds like she had control of the apartment and if she gave permission to the police to enter, the search may be legal. Since I don't have any of the facts, I suggest that an attorney in your area be consulted.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law | Mark Thiessen
    Depends on the facts. There are many reasons to search without a warrant, i.e. possible destruction of the evidence, so no time for a warrant.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    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.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Connell-Savela
    Connell-Savela | Jason Savela
    With no search warrant and no consent, they cannot search the house.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Timothy J. Thill P.C.
    Timothy J. Thill P.C. | Timothy J. Thill
    This was definitely an illegal search and a motion should be filed in court to suppress any and all evidence seized by the cops.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Attorney at Law
    Attorney at Law | Michael J. Kennedy
    Searches of residences [and other places] are presumptively illegal without a warrant, but there are some things that can make them legal, and your question does not eliminate all possibilities. But they are presumptively illegal.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    The Gorman Law Firm | Scott Gorman
    A warrantless search is presumptively invalid, but the State can overcome that presumption.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Law Office of James E. Smith
    Law Office of James E. Smith | James Smith
    There would have to be an exception to the requirement for a warrant for the search to be legal, i.e., consent, exigent circumstances, plain view, etc.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Correia-Champa & Mailhot
    Correia-Champa & Mailhot | Susan Correia Champa
    The police need exigent circumstances to search without a warrant. Your neighbor cannot consent unless emergency or they own the property.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 12/5/2011
    Michael Edwards, Attorney at Law
    Michael Edwards, Attorney at Law | Michael Edwards
    Good question. Usually not. However, I would consult with a good attorney, give them all of the facts, and get a fully educated legal opinion. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 12/5/2011
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