Legal Guide

Are there exceptions to the warrantless search rule in Los Angeles?

The constitution of the US provides protection against searches and seizure by law enforcement officers, that are not legitimate. Take a look at the fourth amendment to see what is said about this matter. The protection means that normally it's necessary for state or local police, or the FBI, to obtain a warrant to conduct a search.

There are some exceptions to this. The exceptions vary slightly, depending on what is being searched; for instance a car, or a smartphone. We are going to look at the general exceptions, when searches and seizes can be made, without the presence of a warrant.

Searching when voluntary consent has been given

If you give a law enforcement official permission to search then they are entitled to do so. The decision as to whether consent has been given is made based on each individual situation. The person giving consent needs to be capable of realizing what they are agreeing to.

Searching when an arrest is being made

If someone is being arrested, the police are allowed to make a search at the same time. The search should be related to checking for a weapon that could be used to cause harm and checking for evidence of a crime.

Searching at border crossings

One of the most obvious times when search and seizure is permitted, without a warrant, is when people are crossing the US border.

Searching a vehicle when there is probable cause

If the police have probable cause to suspect that there is evidence of a crime present in a vehicle, they are permitted to stop the driver and search the vehicle.

Searching in an emergency

Searching during an emergency situation is permitted, without the need for a warrant. This could be to prevent serious harm to a person, or damage to property. It could also be to help detain a suspect who has fled, or is in the process of fleeing.

Searching someone who has been detained

If the police detain someone, because they believe they may have been involved in a crime, they can search outside of their clothing. This helps to identify if the person is carrying any dangerous weapons that could be used.

Searching when privacy cannot be expected

There are times when people cannot expect a level of privacy. At these times, searching can be undertaken, without a warrant being granted.

What is the expectation of privacy?

We mentioned that there are times when privacy cannot be expected; so what is the expectation of privacy? Basically there are situations which you would expect to be private, such as when you are in your own home or in a hotel room. You would also expect the electronic devices you use to be private.

However, if you abandon property, or you are a passenger in a vehicle that does not belong to you, there is no expectation of privacy. This is when searches can be carried out without a warrant. This list of situations is not exhaustive, but hopefully it gives you an idea of when privacy can be expected, and when it cannot.

As you can see, there are several exceptions to the warrantless search rule in Los Angeles. The rules can be open to interpretation. If you have been pulled over on suspicion of a DUI, and feel that you were searched illegally, you should contact a Los Angeles DUI Attorney, as soon as possible. They can help you resolve the situation, and take action if necessary.

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