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Can police conduct a search without a warrant?

Did you know that in most circumstances, you must give consent for a police officer to search your house, car or other property? Unless the police have a search warrant, you have the right to deny consent to a search.

There are, however, instances in which a search warrant and your consent are not needed.

When can police search without a warrant?

If circumstances are considered "exigent," or an emergency, police don't need a search warrant. Circumstances are "exigent" if someone is in danger of death or serious injury, if a suspect is escaping, or if any evidence is in danger of being destroyed.

If evidence of an illegal activity is in plain view, police have the right to take the object as evidence without having a warrant to search the area. They must have lawful access to be on the property however.

Police can conduct any warrantless search if you give consent to it. That is why it's important to remember your rights.

What do I do if police try to conduct a search without a warrant?

If a police officer asks to search your property without a warrant, you should always say no to the search. If an officer begins searching your property despite your refusal to give consent, you should persist in telling them you do not consent to a search. Make sure you do not physically prevent them from searching you though. You should only verbally refuse the search.

What if a police officer questions me before, during or after a search?

Under the Fifth Amendment, you have "the right to remain silent," and when speaking to a police officer, you should always exercise that right. In the case of an unwarranted search, you need to say "no" to the search, but you should not answer any questions they ask. Avoid accidentally giving any verbal evidence against yourself by remaining silent and contacting a criminal defense attorney afterward, especially if you have been searched illegally.

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