Encounters with police can make you nervous or anxious even when they do not involve a crime. However, learning your rights can ease your anxiety significantly.
For example, you should study your Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search and seizure. Knowing what it says can help you learn about when the police have the right to search your property.
In most cases, the police need a search warrant, in which the courts give written permission based on probable cause. They can only search the property listed on the warrant. In addition, police can only search and collect the materials specified in the warrant.
Searches during arrests
If the police arrest you, they have the right to search you for weapons. They can also look for your property to find evidence and prevent its destruction. The police have the right to search for accomplices as well. All the evidence they find is admissible in court.
When you encounter police, they may ask if they can search you and your property. If you agree, you have given consent, and anything they find is admissible in your case.
Plain view doctrine
If the police pull you over and see a weapon, drugs or any other illegal thing in your vehicle, they can pursue a greater exploration of your property. Because the illegal items were in plain view, they have probable cause.
Police are responsible for keeping the public safe and preserving evidence. Therefore, if the police believe that public safety is at risk, the destruction of evidence, suspects may escape or the occurrence of violence, they do not need a warrant.
Remember that although you have the right to deny access to your property, if evidence is available, they can come in without your consent.