Can Police Lawfully Search A Property Without A Warrant?
Can Police Officers Search A Home Or Automobile Without A Warrant If They Have Suspicion Or A Probable Cause That There Are Drugs In The Area?
The Virginia Supreme Court continues to have the position that warrantless searches are per se unreasonable subject only to a few specifically established and well delineated exceptions. Code section 19.2-59 affords the same protections against warrantless searches as those that are provided by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The Virginia Courts have recognized the warrant requirement exceptions that are adopted by the United States Supreme Court. Typically, police need to have a warrant to search a person’s home and to search their vehicle but there are exceptions to that.
Some of the more common exceptions to the warrant requirement are searches incident to arrest. That’s where a person can be searched if they are lawfully arrested. The police can search their person, and can also search the area within the person’s immediate control; typically the immediate cabin of a car at a traffic stop. There are limitations to this warrant requirement exception. The search must be incident to the arrest and the search must be contemporaneous with the arrest. The police can’t arrest you on a Friday and come back and search you the next Tuesday for contraband without a warrant.
Another exception to the warrant requirement relates to automobile searches. This exception allows for the search of a car upon probable cause to believe that the car contains evidence of the offense for which the suspect was arrested and the subject seized. This typically occurs when a police officer conducts a traffic stop and they smell the odor of marijuana.
Another thing typically seen is what’s called “inventory search”. These occur frequently in Northern Virginia when a person is pulled over for a traffic infraction that ends with impoundment of the car. The person may have a suspended license or they may be driving under the influence. If the driver is unable to drive the car and another sober, licensed driver is not readily available; the police will impound the car.
Some police departments in Virginia take the position that the car being left on the road is a safety hazard so they are going to impound the vehicle. In the process of impounding, they will do an inventory search to document the items in the car at the time of impound. This is often an opportunity for police to search the car and find other evidence of contraband because they have taken the person away.
Some other exceptions to the warrant requirement include what is called “hot pursuit.” This typically occurs when a suspect is running from the scene of a crime or attempting to evade the police and the police observe the suspect enter a home. The law allows for the police to continue the pursuit, breaking through the threshold of that home, to continue the pursuit of the suspect.
Another exception is what is called “exigent circumstances.” This occurs when the police believe that evidence of a crime is going to be destroyed. The most common example of this is the police come to execute a search warrant, no one answers the door, but the police observe through a window that someone is in a bathroom flushing what appears to be cocaine or marijuana. This may satisfy the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement.
The last one would be what is referred to as a “protective sweep”. That’s when the police can come in to ensure the safety of the occupants of a residence. All exceptions to the warrant requirement are very fact specific. There is no bright-line rule and the facts and circumstances to each case can be reviewed by the court during a suppression motion to exclude evidence that was illegally obtained.
If you are not sure Whether Police A Search A House Or Car Without A Warrant, call the BUGG LAW FIRM, PLLC for a FREE Initial Consultation at (703) 552-2462 and get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.
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