When an officer feels that they need to search your home, personal space or belongings, they will have to obtain a search warrant. Your personal space is protected from unreasonable searches by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. If officers feel that they have to search any area that is under your immediate control and personal, they must obtain a search warrant, unless there is probable cause for an immediate search.
In situations where there are no exigent circumstances, officers will have to first obtain a search warrant. Exigent circumstances are those in which if the officer’s don’t act immediately, the evidence may be destroyed, or they may lose the suspect.
For example, officer’s respond to call made by neighbors regarding loud noise and yelling coming from the house next door. When officers arrive at the house, a distressed woman answers and looks as if she has been harmed. Officers ask if she is ok, and hear voices in the background saying that it is the police and officer’s see drug paraphernalia and drugs on the table behind the woman. Immediately, officers ask the woman to step aside, enter the premises and confiscate all drugs and related paraphernalia.
In that situation, there was no time to obtain a search warrant. If officers had gone to get a search warrant from a Judge, the evidence would have been destroyed and cleaned out. Officers had probable cause to search the home without a warrant. Probable cause is based on the specific facts of the situation. In this case, the officers saw drugs and paraphernalia that indicated drug usage. They had reason to believe that drugs were being illegally used and sold based on what they saw. They also had reason to believe that if they did not act quickly, the drugs and evidence would be destroyed, causing it to be difficult to bring a Los Angeles Drug Sale charge later.
In comparison, lets assume officers have been watching a guy for a few weeks. He has been selling drugs and smuggling drugs into the country. They have lots of evidence to indicate that he is involved in serious drug sales, but need some more before they move in on him. On a stake out officers observe the suspect, without his knowledge, take unmarked packages and move them into his garage. The packages are undeniably cocaine. Officers come up to the suspect and search his garage and home. In this situation, officers did not act in accordance with the suspect’s fourth amendment rights. There were no exigent circumstances. Officers had been watching the suspect for some time and had evidence against him already. The suspect did not know he was being watched so he would not have destroyed evidence, or run from the officers. Officers had the time to obtain a search warrant and then present it to the suspect and proceed with searching the home.
If you feel that officers acted without a search warrant when one was required, your case could be dismissed. Consult a Los Angeles Criminal Defense lawyer to assess whether your Constitutional rights were violated.