Do police need a warrant? What to know.

On Behalf of | Nov 1, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Under the United States Constitution, the police usually must obtain a warrant to complete a legal search of your private property. This rule is in place to protect your right to privacy and against unreasonable searches.

However, it is important to be aware of when the police can – or cannot – search your property without a warrant.

When can police conduct a search without a warrant?

There are situations when Texas police do not need a warrant to conduct a search or seize evidence. However, warrantless searches are only allowed in specific circumstances, including:

  • If you give permission for your property or person to be searched
  • If evidence is in plain view, often in the event of vehicle searches
  • Following an arrest, under reasonable circumstances
  • In the event of an emergency or imminent harm
  • If police are in “hot pursuit” of a suspect

Aside from these particular circumstances, police need a warrant to search your home or other private property. It is especially important to be aware of these circumstances when it comes to the type of criminal charges you might be facing and if police are in “hot pursuit.”

How does hot pursuit work?

If police are in “hot pursuit” of a suspect, the law allows them to enter the individual’s home and arrest them without obtaining a warrant first. However, it is critical to understand that the rules surrounding “hot pursuit” specifically apply to circumstances where a felony has occurred.

This summer, the Supreme Court ruled that these rules do not apply in cases involving a misdemeanor. In this particular case, police charged a California man with a DUI after they followed him to his home and slipped under his garage door. But the Court determined that:

  1. Police do not automatically have the power to enter a home if they are in hot pursuit of a misdemeanor
  2. Police also cannot conduct a warrantless search of private property if they are in hot pursuit of a misdemeanor

Understanding your rights under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution can help you protect them – and protect yourself.