If you are like most people you likely consider your home to be your own private domain – the one place where you can count on complete privacy and peace. What happens, however, if the police show up at your door asking to search your home? Can the police enter your home without a warrant? Whether or not a warrantless search of a home was conducted illegally is highly fact specific, requiring you to consult with an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney for specific advice and guidance. There are, however, some general rules regarding warrantless searches in San Diego that may be helpful in the meantime.
The U.S. Constitution prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures”, requiring the police to obtain a warrant based on probable cause before a search can be conducted. That protection has slowly eroded over the years; however, your home remains the most protected of all areas when it comes to searches and seizures. As a general rule, a law enforcement officer must have a warrant to search your home unless one of the exceptions to the warrant requirements applies. Those exceptions include:
- Consent – consent is the most often used exception to the warrant requirement. If the police can get you to consent to a search, no warrant is needed. NEVER consent to a search of your home. The police will use a number of tactics to try and get you to consent. Do not do so unless you have consulted with a California criminal defense attorney first.
- Plain view – this applies if, for example, you open the door to a law enforcement officer and the officer can see a bag full of cocaine sitting on the coffee table right inside the doorway.
- Incident to arrest – this applies if an officer is serving a valid arrest warrant. The officer is then allowed to search the immediate area around the arrestee that is within his or her control to ensure that the arrestee does not have a weapon or contraband.
- Exigent circumstances – this typically appliesif an officer believes that someone is in danger inside the home and there is no time to request a warrant. If, for instance, the police hear someone screaming for help inside the home or hear a gun go off, they can come in without a warrant.
If the police conducted a search of your home without a warrant and evidence of a crime was obtained during the search, that evidence could be excluded from trial if the search was conducted illegally. Consult with an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney right away too determine your legal options.