In most cases involving a police search the police do not have a warrant. This includes searches of individuals, vehicles, and homes. The reason is simple - a police officer asks for permission to search, and the citizen gives it to them. Surprisingly, people very frequently give consent to search even when they should know contraband will be found. Among other things, this stems from people not knowing their rights. Police are trained to ask for consent in non-threatening ways:
- "Do you mind if I look around?"
- "There aren't any weapons in the car are there? Guns, knives, bazookas? Mind if I look to make sure?" The bazooka bit is a particular favorite of McCracken County law enforcement for some reason. When officers ask this question, it is generally not because they want to look for weapons - they want to look for contraband in general.
- "Do you mind if I step inside and talk to you?" This is actually just asking for permission to enter your home, but anything an officer sees once you let him in is fair game.
Sometimes they are not so chummy:
- "Are you going to make me get a warrant?" If you don't consent to a search, a police officer may indeed go get a warrant, but at least in that circumstance a judge has to make a decision about whether the officer has a right to search. More importantly, the grounds for a search warrant can be reviewed at a later time. Consent searches, on the other hand, are very difficult for a lawyer to overcome.
If you agree to let them search, it is almost certain that anything they find can and will be used as evidence against you. I don't fault police for trying to do their jobs, or for using the tools available to them. However, consent is one of the most powerful tools they have, and one of the few that is under control of the person who is suspected of a crime. The reality is that if an officer is asking to search you or your vehicle (or to enter your home) it is not because he wants to give you a good citizenship medal. It is because he wants to find evidence to use against you. A good rule of thumb is that if an officer is asking your permission to do something, then he probably can't do it without your permission. So what do you say? "Yes, I mind if you look. Can I be on my way?" And when the officer wants to know why you mind, the answer is simple and truthful - "I mind because I value my privacy." If you have questions or if you have a case that involves search and seizure issues, contact Edwards and Kautz to discuss it. Call us today at 866-795-5087 or fill out any form on this website.