Warrant Exceptions

Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement

When an investigative officer intends to search a person, place or thing, and seize evidence that is found, it must be done legally.  That means that certain basic requisites must be met.  As such, arresting officers must have a very clear understanding of when a search warrant is required and when it is not.  Those exceptions to the general requirement that an officer have a search warrant are very important in criminal defense.

Protections of the Fourth Amendment

The reason for the search and seizure requirements is the protection afforded to citizens by the Fourth Amendment.  The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.  It also states that, in most situations, a search warrant is required, but will not be issued unless there is probable cause.  The warrant must be supported by an oath or affirmation from an officer, and must describe the particular place or person to search or the thing to be seized.

The seven exceptions to the Fourth Amendment

The seven exceptions to the Fourth Amendment are as follows:

  1. Exigent circumstances: “Exigent” means emergency, which means under lifesaving circumstances.
  2. Search incidental to a lawful arrest: When there is a lawful, custodial arrest, a full search of the person is not only an exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment, but is also a reasonable search under the amendment.
  3. Consent: If a suspect voluntarily consents to a search, without threats or promises of any kind, then a warrant is not required.
  4. Plain view: While an officer is lawfully in a place, and there is contraband, stolen property or other evidence of a crime in plain view, then seizure of those items is lawful, without a search warrant.
  5. Caretaker function: Property that has been found by someone else and turned over to the police, or abandoned property found by officers on patrol, can be searched and seized without a warrant.
  6. Inventory or impounded vehicles: An automobile that has been impounded, can be searched and inventoried, through standard police procedures, in order to secure the vehicle and its contents.
  7. Motor vehicle: When a police officer arrests a person in a vehicle, the officer may search the passenger compartment of the vehicle, including any open or closed containers. This exception does not include the trunk.

If you have questions regarding searches and seizures, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

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