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When Can Police Search My Home Without a Warrant?

The Fourth Amendment protects U.S. citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures” by requiring police to establish probable cause in order to search someone’s home. In order to establish probable cause, they must present their case before a judge, who will then issue a search warrant to them if they believe that their concerns and need to search is valid. If they fail to do so, then any evidence that is collected by an unauthorized or illegitimate search is considered inadmissible in court and cannot be used against you, no matter how damaging it may be.

However, many people are unaware that the police do not always have to go through this potentially lengthy process in order to search you, your home, or your car. In certain circumstances, law enforcement may simply take the initiative to collect evidence that is admissible without going through the process of obtaining a warrant. Let’s take a look at these four exceptions to this general rule now.


If you give law enforcement permission to search you, your home, or your car, then any evidence they may find against you is considered admissible in court. The police may not tell you that you have the right to refuse to allow them to search you, but you do, and it’s strongly advised you exercise this right. That being said, this is a rare circumstance; police cannot coerce you into allowing them to search you or your property, and a housemate or spouse cannot allow the police to search anything more than the common areas of your home (bedrooms or other private areas are still off limits without your permission).

Plain View

To put it simply, if you leave evidence in plain sight where anyone can see it, law enforcement does not need a search warrant to obtain the evidence. For example, if you are pulled over by police because your vehicle matches the description of a getaway car used in a bank robbery, police do not need a search warrant to arrest you and claim the gun you leave sitting on the passenger seat as evidence. No reasonable person would expect something sitting in plain view to be considered private, and as such, police may use it as evidence.

Incident to Arrest

If the police arrest you in your home, police may search the remainder of your home for any threats to their safety, such as accomplices or weapons. They may also search for evidence of your crime in order to protect it and prevent an accomplice from returning to destroy it before they are able to obtain a warrant.

Exigent Circumstances

If your actions constitute a legitimate threat to public safety, or police fear that any delay could cause the evidence against you to be lost, then they may arrest you and search without obtaining a warrant. One good example of this is a DUI test: police do not need a warrant to “search” you because you will likely have sobered up by the time they are able to procure one. Instead, you are required to submit to a BAC test at the time of your arrest.

If you have been arrested and had your property or person searched by police, you should immediately review all case details with a Bakersfield criminal defense attorney. At Campbell Whitten, nobody works harder to fight back against your charges and clear your name. Our team understands how difficult it can be facing criminal accusations, and we work hard to provide you with trustworthy counsel and fierce representation throughout the process. Our attorneys have obtained numerous accolades, including being named one of Newsweek’s “14 Best Criminal Attorneys” in 2014 and one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers by The National Trial Lawyers.

Find out how we can help you! Call Campbell Whitten today at 661.735.1038 to schedule your initial consultation and start fighting back now.