If police conduct a search of your house or vehicle and find drugs or illegal weapons, it can be really difficult for a lawyer to argue your innocence. Instead of attacking the legitimacy of the evidence, your attorney may opt to challenge the legitimacy of the evidence collection. This raises the question, “what constitutes a legal search of your home or car in Illinois?” We share five ways police can conduct a legal search of your belongings in today’s blog.
5 Ways Police Can Search Your Stuff
Here are five ways police will try to legally search your belongings to collect evidence to be used against you during your criminal case.
- Consent – If you give them permission to search your house or car, anything they find can legally be entered into evidence. They may try to say things like “If you have nothing to hide, let us search your car,” or “If you’re not doing anything illegal then let us just have a quick look.” You are allowed to say no, as you are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures by the constitution. You can politely say that although you aren’t doing anything illegal, if they want to search the vehicle, they’ll need to get a search warrant. Which brings us to the next point
- A Warrant – If police have a warrant to search an area, you have to let them conduct their search. However, they are only allowed to search the specific area outlined in the warrant. If the warrant states they can enter the home, but they find drugs in your detached garage, a lawyer can argue that they violated the scope of the warrant.
- Incident To An Arrest – If police have probable cause to arrest you for a crime, they can then conduct a search of your persons and the immediate vicinity. This is most commonly used to conduct vehicle searches. For example, if police suspect you are under the influence of drugs, they may place you under arrest for DUI and legally search your vehicle.
- Plain View – Police are also allowed to execute a legal search if items are in plain view. You have an expectation of privacy, but if an officer looks through your window and sees cocaine on the living room table, they can enter the area and collect evidence legally. Even in your own home, it’s not a good idea to have any evidence that could be used against you out in plain sight.
- Hot Pursuit – Finally, if police are engaged in pursuit of a suspect, they are able to search for evidence if they enter a dwelling. For example, if police chase a suspect in a vehicle and they drive home, run inside and lock the door, police are allowed to enter the premises. If they find evidence pertaining to the initial traffic stop, or evidence of a new crime in and of itself, this can legally be entered into trial even though they did not have permission or a warrant to enter the residence.
It’s also worth noting that there are some exigent circumstances that allow police to collect evidence in specific scenarios. For example, if there is a high probability that evidence will be destroyed before officers can legally collect the evidence, they may be able to enter an area to preserve this evidence without a warrant. Your lawyer will certainly argue against this, but it is something we’ve run into during court in the past.
If you have questions as to the legitimacy of the search police conducted on your home or vehicle, reach out to the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Appelman & Lloyd today.