A set of federal and state laws govern how the police conduct investigations. The purpose of these regulations is to ensure that your civil rights remain intact, including your right to privacy. So what about when the police ask you to allow them to search?
The regulations governing the right of the police to search you or your belongings have their roots in the U.S. Constitution, specifically the Fourth Amendment.
When can the police search?
A typical scenario involves a traffic stop. When the police ask you to pull over, they may ask to search your vehicle. You do not have to consent to this request; instead, you can assert your Fourth Amendment right. However, if the police see something in plain sight in your vehicle, they may take it and use it as evidence against you.
What makes a search illegal?
Aside from the plain sight exception, an officer cannot search your property without permission from either you or a judge. Police often need to ask for a search warrant that allows them to continue investigating a crime by looking for specific evidence of that crime.
What happens if the court throws out the search?
There are times when the police take something on a cursory search. This means they do not have a warrant or permission to search, but they decide to do so anyway. If this happens to you and you can prove that there was no basis for the search, the judge may invalidate it and the evidence. The prosecution cannot use that evidence against you in court.
Should you find yourself dealing with the police requesting a search, you have the right to refuse. If the quest continues, you may have the grounds for an illegal search on your hands.