Can Police Execute A Warrantless Search If They Suspect Drugs?

Your home receives the highest protection under the law, and as such, police cannot search your home for drugs without a warrant. There are very few exceptions to that.

The most common exception is something called the “plain view” exception. If the police are in your house lawfully (for example, because you called them to report a burglary or your spouse called them to report an assault) and the police see drugs in plain view, they can arrest you for possession. However, they can’t search the rest of the house. The police still need to get a warrant for that.

Another exception is “exigent circumstances,” which applies only in emergencies. This also ties in with the plain view exception. For example, if the police chase a person who has committed a crime into their house, arrest them, and see drugs in plain view, they can seize those drugs and charge the person with possession. But again, the police are going to need a warrant to search the rest of the house.

There is far less of an expectation of privacy when it comes to your car.

Generally, the police can search your car for drugs without a warrant in three circumstances: (1) if you give them consent to search your car, (2) if they have probable cause to believe drugs are in your car, or (3) if you’ve been arrested and they do an inventory search of your car before towing it to an impound lot.

You’ll be surprised how many people consent to searches of their car. Don’t ever do that. The only way to fight consent in court is to prove that you didn’t actually give consent or you were forced.

Plenty of things can give rise to probable cause to search your car. If an officer smells drugs in the car, sees drug paraphernalia in plain view, overhears conversation between passengers about drugs being in the car, or if a drug dog alerts to the car—all of these can be probable cause to search your car without a warrant.

An inventory search is just what it sounds like. If you’re arrested for something else, say unpaid traffic tickets, the police aren’t going to let your car sit on the side of the road. They’re going to tow it. And before they do that, they need to search the car and list the valuable items inside to protect themselves in case those items disappear after the car is taken to the impound lot. If they happen to find drugs during that search—even if you weren’t arrested for anything having to do with drugs—chances are you’re going to be charged with possession.

For more information on Warrantless Searches For Drugs, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (713) 936-4521 today.

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