Skip to Content
Call Us Today! 860-455-4202

When is a police search legal?


Police Searches

Policemen - Police searches

If you're stopped by police on the street or in your car, or if they enter a residence where you happen to be, it's understandable that you panic. Often, people in these situations submit to anything a law enforcement officer asks or tells them to do.

There are limits to these officers' rights regarding search and seizure. However, whatever you've learned in school or by watching "Law and Order" may go flying out of your head when you're the one facing police.

To learn more about your rights, contact our firm today.

What makes it a legal search and seizure?

Police may engage in searches without a warrant when people have no "legitimate expectation of privacy." If you have drugs lying out in plain view in a public place, that's very different than if they're in the glove compartment of your car when you've been stopped for speeding and are showing no signs of being under the influence. Police must show that they have reasonable expectation that a person has committed a crime to engage in such a search.


If police obtain a warrant and search your vehicle or home, that warrant needs to specify exactly what areas they're allowed to search. If something is in plain sight, however, that item can be used against you. For example, if they have a warrant to search your garage, but there's a crack pipe on the ground in the driveway. That could be problematic.

Keep in mind:

  • Police are also allowed to ensure their own safety with a "protective sweep" of a home.
  • If the police are in "hot pursuit" of a person whom they believe has committed a crime and who escapes into a home, they may enter and search that home without a warrant.

Get in touch with an experienced attorney today

If you have been arrested and you believe that the police have obtained incriminating evidence through illegal search and seizure, it's essential that you notify your attorney. If that is the case, he or she can work to get that evidence thrown out.

Our attorney can help you with your case. Call us today.

Source: FindLaw, "Searches and Seizures: The Limitations of the Police," accessed Nov. 30, 2017