A warrantless search can result in the suppression of evidence.

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The 4th Amendment Protects Us Against an Unreasonable Search or Seizure.

There must be a search warrant or an exception to make a search legal. One of the most common exceptions is consent to search. The Consent Exception can be problematic because most people do not realize they can refuse to consent to a police search. Most people are also frightened when law enforcement is present, in uniform, with badges and guns, and afraid to say “no.” Therefore, a consent search is not necessarily voluntary when there is a warrantless search.

In the recent case of U.S. v. Lee, Mr. Lee was on parole. Lee’s parole officer received hearsay information that Lee may be involved with guns. The parole officer visited Lee’s home with two police officers. Lee’s girlfriend invited the officers inside. Lee was cuffed and patted down. The police asked him if he had anything illegal in the house. He told them no and that they could look (consent to search is an exception to the search warrant requirement, thereby justifying a warrantless search). The police found a gun during the search. Lee filed a Motion to Suppress the gun as evidence. The judge denied the Motion to Suppress, and the trial court determined the search was valid. On appeal, the court of appeals held,

“The fact that the defendant was handcuffed at the time he consented to the search did not render his consent involuntary. Further, the court held that the defendant’s statement that the officers could go ahead and look was sufficient to provide consent to the search.”  

This case reaffirms that when police officers ask for permission to search, the answer should always be “not without a warrant” because warrantless searches are unconstitutional.

The legal basis for judges to suppress evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment, such as when there was a warrantless search, comes from the exclusionary rule. Courts created the exclusionary rule based on the Fourth Amendment. The rule prevents evidence obtained through unlawful searches and seizures from being used by the government as evidence in court. It was established to deter law enforcement from violating citizens’ constitutional rights. The foundational case for this in the U.S. was Weeks v. United States (1914), and it was later extended to state courts, including Michigan, in Mapp v. Ohio (1961). Exceptions to the rule exist, such as the good faith exception and the inevitable discovery doctrine, but its primary purpose is to ensure the justice system’s integrity.

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What do police officers need to get a warrant to search a home?

To obtain a search warrant for a home and avoid a challenge based on a warrantless search, police officers typically need to demonstrate the following:

  • “Probable Cause” is the main requirement. Officers must provide evidence or information suggesting that a crime has been committed and that evidence of that crime can be found in the specific location they want to search. Probable cause is a reasonable belief based on facts or circumstances.
  • A search warrant must be specific. The request for the warrant must be specific about the place to be searched and the items or evidence sought. Law enforcement officers and agents cannot ask for a general warrant to search anywhere and for anything.
  • Officers seeking a warrant must present a sworn affidavit. Typically, the officer provides a sworn statement (affidavit) to a judge detailing the reasons for the search, the evidence supporting probable cause, and the specific items sought in the search.
  • A neutral judge or magistrate must sign the warrant. The officer presents the warrant application to a neutral, detached magistrate or judge. The judge reviews the provided information and determines if there’s sufficient probable cause to issue the search warrant. If so, they sign the warrant authorizing the search.

It’s important to note that while warrants are generally required for home searches due to the high expectation of privacy in one’s home, there are exceptions. For instance, in situations with exigent circumstances (like chasing a suspect into a home) or when officers reasonably believe that evidence is in imminent danger of destruction, officers might conduct a warrantless search.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys Who Have a Remarkable Success Rate In Challenging Warrantless Searches

There are many exceptions to the requirement that police get a search warrant to conduct a search legally. If you have a search without a warrant issue or any search you feel was improper and illegal, you need to speak to the attorneys of LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., as soon as possible. The firm’s attorneys are specialists in constitutional law related to searches and seizures and criminal law issues. To protect yourself and ensure that the Government has not overstepped during a warrantless search, it is in your best interest to consult with a top criminal defense law firm to advise you of your rights. Our attorneys have decades of experience successfully defending people charged with criminal offenses.

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The lawyers with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. are well respected and have an unparalleled record of success. The firm’s lawyers often get results for clients that even impress other lawyers! If you have questions or are facing criminal law problems, call LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. for a free consultation, and we will take the time to talk with you, answer your questions, address your concerns, and work with you to develop a winning strategy.

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