Police searches are a common part of investigating any crime in Georgia. While it is common knowledge that police must adhere to strict guidelines regarding their behavior during a search, most people are unaware of their individual rights during this investigatory process. Fortunately, individuals subject to criminal investigation are protected by a series of rights, laws, and guidelines, including the United States Constitution.
What the Law Says about Searches
Beginning with the U.S. Constitution, American citizens have certain protected rights during police investigations. Here are the most important aspects of police searches that anyone should know:
- S. Constitution – The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that all American citizens are protected from unreasonable search and seizure. Additionally, the Fourth Amendment establishes the requirement that police must obtain a warrant to search an individual’s property based on probable cause.
- Warrants – A search warrant is a document obtained by police through a judge issuing an order to search an individual’s property based on probable cause which lead law enforcement to believe that a crime has been committed or is in progress. Search warrants are specific and generally list the property or items believed to be on the property, or the circumstances leading police to believe a crime was committed.
- Exceptions – Not every situation requires a search warrant in order to be valid and legally binding. For example, an individual who is arrested lawfully may be subject to a search and seizure of property without a warrant. Similarly, if a police officer observes evidence, such as items that are illegal to possess, in plain view, he or she can execute a search. Along the same lines, an officer involved in exigent circumstances, which is require immediate action, is also able to execute a search. The most common exception is when the individual consents to allow police to search their property.
- Conversations – In most cases, police cannot use a wiretap or other verbal monitoring without obtaining a warrant. However, if the conversation being monitored is conducted in an area where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, or one party consents to being monitored, a warrant may not be required.
- Limits on Scope of Permission – Police officers who conduct a search based on consent must be careful not to exceed the scope of permission. U.S. Supreme Court rulings have helped establish guidelines for what constitutes the scope of permission, but in many cases, the validity of the search, and the scope, are called into question during criminal proceedings. It is the duty of the state (i.e., prosecutor) to prove that the police officer acted within the scope of permission.
- Right to Refuse – Current laws do not require police officers to inform suspects of their right to refuse a search. The Fourth Amendment provides this right, but more recent laws have clarified that the right to refuse is outside the scope of Miranda rights, and most people are unaware of the fact that they can refuse in some circumstances, which will result in police attempting to obtain a search warrant.
At Abt Law Firm, LLC, we understand that you may be unaware of your all your legal rights, or you may have been subject to an illegal search. Atlanta Criminal Defense Attorney Jay Abt is well versed in search and seizure guidelines, and he will fight aggressively to protect your Fourth Amendment rights. If you want to fight a search or seizure that you believe was illegal or invalid, contact Abt Law Firm, LLC today at (678) 582-2272. We are happy to provide a consultation in our office, over the phone, or at local jails.