The police usually need a warrant to enter and search your home for evidence of a crime. Under the Fourth Amendment, an unreasonable search and seizure is unlawful. However, there are some exceptions when the police can enter and search your home without a warrant.
When are warrantless searches allowed in California?
If you consent to the search
One of the most straightforward ways the police can enter your home is by asking for consent. While you may not have any reason to let the police into your home willingly, most people do so, believing that the law requires this. However, if you don’t consent to their request to enter your home and they conduct an illegal search, any evidence they collect may not be admissible in court.
Plain view doctrine
The police can conduct a warrantless search and seize any evidence in plain view. In addition, the police can legally enter your home if they witness an illegal act.
The police are also allowed to enter your home and conduct a search without a warrant if they feel there is imminent danger to the public. For example, police officers can forcibly enter your home if they believe that evidence is being destroyed, if someone has been injured or if a suspect is trying to escape.
Police can perform a warrantless search in connection with an arrest. For example, suppose you’re arrested for a crime; the police won’t need a warrant to search for weapons, accomplices to the crime or evidence that could be destroyed.
The police can also perform a protective sweep following an arrest if they believe accomplices are hiding in your home. During a protective sweep, the police can legally seize evidence within plain view.
If you were arrested after a warrantless search by the police, you might need to seek legal assistance to determine your legal options when creating a defense.