Home > Insights > Is a Warrantless Search Ever Permissible?

Is a Warrantless Search Ever Permissible?

by | Jul 19, 2023

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from unlawful searches and seizures by law enforcement. As a general rule, before police can search your person, home, or vehicle, they must have probable cause for the search — and obtain a valid search warrant from the court. Failure to do so might constitute a violation of your Constitutional rights, and any evidence derived from the search may be excluded in your case. But it’s important to understand that there are certain situations where warrantless searches may be permitted under the law. 

Searches Conducted Under Emergency Circumstances or in Hot Pursuit

Exigent circumstances can allow for warrantless searches. If the police believe there is a crime in progress, someone’s life is in danger, or evidence could be destroyed, they are permitted to enter a premises without first obtaining a warrant. However, they must be able to show they had probable cause that justified their need to act quickly. In addition, if the police are in hot pursuit of a suspect who enters onto private property, they do not need a search warrant to enter — even if the suspect has no connection with the owner of the property.         

Searches Conducted Under the Plain View Doctrine

Police generally do not need to obtain a search warrant to seize any evidence that is in plain view. In order for law enforcement to satisfy the plain view exception to the Fourth Amendment, the officer must be legally allowed in the location where the contraband was observed and have a lawful right of access to the object. Additionally, the illegal nature of the object must be readily apparent. For instance, if the police have a warrant to enter your home for drugs, they can also seize any illegal weapons they observe in plain sight that they reasonably believe is contraband.   

Searches Incident to Lawful Arrest

A search incident to a lawful arrest does not require a warrant. When you are arrested, the police have the right to search your person for weapons or contraband as a security measure. As part of a search incident to lawful arrest, they may also search any area that is within your grab and reach without first obtaining a warrant.   

Consent Searches 

Importantly, you have no obligation to comply with a police officer’s request to conduct a search. If you give your consent to the police to conduct the search, you have waived your right to a reasonable expectation of privacy — and they do not need a warrant. The consent exception also applies if another person has authority to consent to a search. For instance, consent to search a house can be obtained from a spouse or co-occupant. 

Contact an Experienced New York Criminal Defense Attorney

If you were subjected to a warrantless search and an exception did not apply, your Constitutional rights may have been violated — and the evidence obtained may be inadmissible in court. It’s crucial to consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can evaluate your case, create a solid defense strategy, and protect your rights every step of the way. The criminal defense attorneys at D’Emilia Law offer high-quality legal representation for those who are facing criminal charges and work to obtain the best possible results in every case. To schedule a consultation, contact us at 1-888-DEMILIA.

Hardship License

Can I Qualify for a Hardship License After Getting a DWI?

Loss of your license after a drug or alcohol DWI can have a negative impact on your life and livelihood — it can affect your ability to drive to school, travel to work, and carry out your daily errands. In limited situations, you may be eligible for a hardship license...
Aggravated DWI

What is an Aggravated DWI in New York?

A DWI of any kind is a serious matter that can result in harsh penalties, including monetary fines, a jail sentence, and license revocation. However, every DWI case is different — and the consequences can be even more severe if you have been convicted of an aggravated...
Criminal Case

What is a Bench Trial in a Criminal Case?

Most people are familiar with jury trials and know that a defendant has the Constitutional right to be tried by a jury of their peers in a serious criminal case. But a jury trial isn’t always the only option. If you’ve been charged with a felony or certain...

Penalties for Multiple DWI Offenses

A DWI is a serious matter — and the repercussions for multiple offenses can be much more severe. While a first-time DWI conviction is generally classified as a misdemeanor in New York State, a second offense within ten years constitutes a felony. If you’ve been...
DWI Arrest

Common Mistakes to Avoid During a DWI Arrest

Being pulled over for drinking and driving can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. A DWI can not only result in monetary fines and jail time, but it can also lead to personal, professional, and financial ramifications. Critically, any mistakes you make during...
Dispensary license violation attorney

Four Important Things to Know About New York’s Marijuana Laws

As the legal landscape regarding marijuana laws continues to shift, New York became the 16th state to legalize cannabis in 2021. However, there are still certain restrictions in place and it’s important to understand these laws to avoid incurring criminal penalties....
Chemical Test

What are the Consequences of Refusing a Chemical Test?

Under New York’s Implied Consent law, all drivers agree to submit to a chemical test if they are pulled over on reasonable suspicion of drunk driving. These tests are used by law enforcement to determine the level of alcohol in the blood. While the most common...
Pre-Trial Motion

What is a Pre-Trial Motion?

If you’ve been charged with a crime, you need a solid defense. One of the tools your criminal defense attorney will use as part of your defense strategy is the filing of pre-trial motions. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, a pre-trial motion can...
Zero Tolerance Law

What is New York’s Zero Tolerance Law?

Being charged with drunk driving at any age is a serious criminal offense that can result in steep consequences. However, New York State law provides distinct penalties for underage drivers who have been charged with DWIs. The Zero Tolerance Law specifies a lower...

When Can You Appeal a Criminal Case in New York?

If you’ve been convicted of a crime, you might still have the option to continue your defense in some situations. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you might be eligible to appeal the conviction or sentence to achieve a dismissal of your case, a reduction...