If a police officer has a warrant, then they have a legal right to search a property or person, and to seize any items found upon that property or person that are connected to a crime. If police do not have a warrant (or if exigent circumstances do not exist), then they can neither search nor seize, and if they do, it is considered a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. As such, police officers have a responsibility to ensure that they are operating within the realm of federal and state laws.
Police Officers’ Right to Request a Warrant
Just as police officers have a right to search and seize if they have a warrant, so do they have a right to request a warrant if they have probable cause. Police have an obligation to present accurate, truthful, and honest information in their warrant request; presenting any falsified information that is submitted with the intent of securing a warrant is against the law.
If police attempt to search your vehicle or property sans a warrant or probable cause, you have the right to say no. Further, police have a legal duty to respect this right – if you say no, a police officer cannot search your property unless they have a warrant.
Police Officers’ Duties Regarding Warrantless Searches
Remember, there are some situations – known as exigent circumstances – where police retain the right to search property without a warrant. However, it is extremely important that police officers understand when these situations are justified and when sufficient probable cause does not exist. It is not uncommon for police officers to let their emotions get the best of them; some may choose to conduct a search because they are frustrated and want to “nail” a suspect or defendant even though no real cause for a search exists.
Remember that police can also ask for your consent if they do not have a warrant and want to search your property. If you say yes, the police have the right to search your property, even though they do not have a warrant.
What to Expect if a Police Officer Shows Up at Your Door with a Warrant
Unless the police are pursuing a suspect or have reason to believe that announcing their presence may be dangerous, police are generally bound to the “knock-notice” rule, also known as the “knock and announce” rule, which means that officers must knock on your front door and wait for you to answer it. They can only enter a home without your permission if they have been refused access or have waited for an unreasonable amount of time.
When you open the front door, the police officers are responsible for introducing themselves, informing you of the search, and presenting the warrant.
Remember, a police officer has the right to not announce themselves if doing so would be unreasonable, i.e. the police officer is at risk of injury by announcing their presence.
No-knock warrants are very common, and may be awarded in drug cases, cases of violent crime, or in major cities where crime is common. While an officer should knock, anything that they seize will not necessarily be thrown out just because they did not.