When can an officer search without a search warrant?

As Louisiana residents may be aware, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires a police officer to have a valid search or arrest warrant, or probable cause that a crime has been committed, before the officer searches a person or seizes his or her property. Sometimes, however, including when police are investigating possible drug crimes, police are permitted to search without a warrant. When do these situations arise?

If the police are in a location where they are authorized to be and they can see evidence, such as drugs themselves, they are permitted to seize the evidence that is in their plain view without a search warrant. Furthermore, if the police ask a person if they can conduct a search and a person consents, the police do not need a search warrant.

Sometimes the police are authorized to search without a warrant if an emergency situation arises. If they are concerned about imminent violence or pursuit of an armed suspect, they may be authorized to search a home or other area that they would not be authorized to search otherwise.

Finally, after the police have made an arrest, the police may search the person they have arrested, as well as his or her immediate surroundings, for any dangerous weapons.

Though the above situations illuminate when police may search without a warrant, whether a particular search and seizure qualifies as one of these categories may not be clear. It is important for Louisiana residents to be aware of their rights and protections against illegal searches and seizures. If a person thinks that he or she has been on the receiving end of an illegal search and seizure, it may be beneficial to seek the counsel of an experienced defense attorney.

Source: FindLaw, “Illegal Search and Seizure FAQs,” accessed May 16, 2015

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