Most people know that the police usually cannot search private property without permission. There are exceptions, such as probable cause or if there is reason to believe someone is injured.

However, it is not always clear who can authorize police to search your property.

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects private citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. If you believe that police searched your property illegally, it may be time to call an experienced criminal defense attorney.

When Can Police Legally Search Your Property?

You’ll need to keep in mind several details regarding private or personal property and searches. Your private property includes your home, purse, backpack, and your vehicle.

Generally speaking, the law requires law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before they can search your home. However, police won’t need a warrant if someone with authority grants permission to search.

Individuals Who Can Authorize a Police Search

Certain parties may allow police to search your property.

Other Adults Who Live with You

Any other adults who live in the home have this authority, including a domestic partner or spouse. Children and minors do not have the authority to allow police to search your property.

Your Roommates

If you have roommates, they have the authority to grant police permission to search your shared spaces, such as the living room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. Roommates cannot authorize police to search your bedroom when you are not at home.

Can Police Search Property When No One is Home?

If no one is home, unless the police have a search warrant, they will not be legally allowed to enter and search your property. Only with the necessary permissions can police search your property or vehicle.

When Can Permission to Search Your Property Be Disputed?

There are various situations where you may find the need to dispute the validity of the permission police received to search your home.

Searching a Shared Bedroom

If your roommate told police they could search your shared bedroom, and police searched your personal space as well, this may be considered an illegal search.

If a Houseworker Grants Permission

You might also dispute the legality of a search if someone who works for you, such as a housekeeper, gardener, or babysitter, gave police permission. These parties do not have the authority. If you have concerns that police did not have the necessary permission to search your property, contact your criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

What Happens with Evidence Obtained in a Search and Seizure?

The purpose of a search is to see if police can find evidence to support a crime. Police may only use evidence obtained legally, either with permission by an authorized person or with a search warrant signed by a judge.

Illegally Obtained Evidence

If police obtain evidence illegally, that evidence should not be deemed admissible against you at trial. Let’s look at the above example. Your roommate gave police permission to search your shared bedroom. If they discover stolen property during their search, they cannot use it as evidence of the crime.

A dedicated legal defender on your side fights for your rights when you are the victim of an illegal search.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Chester County, PA

Police need the proper permissions before they can conduct a search and seizure. If you believe law enforcement violated your rights, call a Chester County, Pennsylvania, criminal defense attorney to advocate for your interests in court.

Get a free initial case review with the Skinner Law Firm to start strategizing your defense. Call us at 610-436-1410 or use our contact form. We’ll reach out to you to discuss the details of your illegal search.

Article Author

Michael J. Skinner, the founder of Skinner Law Firm LLC, is a former prosecutor with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

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