Police Searches: What Exactly Are Your Rights?
Dealing with police, even if you haven’t done anything wrong and the officers seem friendly, can be intimidating and even scary at times. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer that covers every police search situation, here’s what you need to know when it comes to police requests for searches of your person or property.
You do not always have to give permission
The US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment is meant to protect you from unreasonable seizures and searches, but sometimes “unreasonable” is a little subjective, and each situation is different.
Generally, the police need to have “probable cause”—a sufficient reason—to think that you’re involved in some criminal activity to be able to search you or your property without your permission. You have the right to refuse a random police search unless you’re entering a secure place like an airport or crossing a border checkpoint.
A random search is different from a search that comes with a warrant, which is one type you can’t refuse. This is when the police get a judge to allow a search without your consent. The police will have the warrant to show you, and it will state what the judge is allowing them to search, such as a specific part of your home.
You should consider refusing random requests
It is important to remember to use your best judgment anytime you refuse a police search. You can always refuse a random search, but it’s still up to you whether you exercise that right.
Law enforcement officers know they must have a sufficient reason to search you or your property. If you don’t consent, they have to go to court and prove they have probable cause to get a warrant and force you to comply. Sometimes, your refusal to consent to the random search will result in them backing down, especially if they don’t have a solid reason for the search that will persuade the judge.
If you agree to a random search, remember that whatever the police are able to find can and probably will be used against you in court. It doesn’t matter if the police stop and ask to search you because they think you have drugs but they find an unregistered gun instead—now, they can charge you for having the weapon and anything else related to that offense, even if you didn’t have any drugs on your person.
If you’re facing police search pressure or have been arrested as a result of a search, seek the help of an experienced Springfield IL criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You could be facing fines and jail time depending on your situation, so it’s important to get yourself legal help as quickly as you can.