Few things are as terrifying as hearing someone pound on the door and shout, “Police! Open up!” In an adrenaline-pumping, heart-pounding moment like this, most people go along with whatever the police demand, even if the police don’t have a right to demand entry or to search the house.
If you were arrested pursuant to a police search of your home, it’s important to speak to an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer. You have important rights. Protect them by talking to a lawyer as soon as possible.
Police Usually Need a Search Warrant
The Fourth Amendment gives all citizens the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The general rule is that police must obtain a search warrant from a judge before they can search your home.
You have probably heard the phrase: a person’s home is his castle. An individual’s right to privacy is heightened in his home, as a home is traditionally meant to be shielded from public view.
As with most legal rules, however, the exceptions are longer than the rule itself.
The Consent Exception
The police don’t need a warrant to search your home if you consent to the search. However, your consent must be freely given. The police can’t coerce you or trick you into agreeing to the search.
On the other hand, the police don’t necessarily have to inform you of your legal right to refuse a search. As you might expect, these cases can be incredibly complex, which is why it’s critical to have a criminal defense lawyer on your side from the start.
The Plain View Exception
The Plain View Doctrine is a well-developed exception to the warrant requirement. If a police officer sees evidence of a crime sitting out in plain sight, the officer can seize the evidence without a warrant.
For example, if the police can clearly see drugs sitting out on a table from the doorway of a house, that is enough to trigger the plain view exception to the search warrant requirement.
Search Incident to Arrest
When the police make an arrest, they are authorized to do a quick search of the surrounding area to ensure their own safety, and to look for any possible accomplices to the crime.
This should be a protective sweep of the area, not an in-depth search. For example, if the police start digging through your sofa cushions or upending your dresser drawers after they take you into custody, the court would most likely deem this an unlawful search.
If There Are Exigent Circumstances
This exception to the warrant requirement allows police to enter a home if they reasonably believe someone is committing a crime inside. Most people are familiar with “hot pursuit,” which is a type of exigent circumstance.
Fans of reality police shows may have seen an officer hop a fence or enter someone’s home while chasing a criminal suspect on foot.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of stories of officers using this exception to conduct an unlawful search, such as a case involving an Ohio police officer who attempted to enter a home after receiving a secondhand tip that someone inside might be taking drugs.
The Importance of Getting Legal Counsel Right Away
The search warrant requirement and its exceptions are complicated areas of law. If your case involves a warrant less search, it may be possible to challenge your prosecution based on the validity of the search.
However, you need the help and skill of an experienced lawyer to get the best results possible. Contact a Maryland criminal defense lawyer today to discuss your case.