When can police search your property?

When the police approach you, they may be able to search you and your property. However, it’s important for you to understand when they can and cannot conduct a search to protect your rights as a civilian.

Searches with a warrant

Texas code 18.01 addresses search warrants and the regulations surrounding them. A warrant allows law enforcement to search and seize property, but they must be issued with the provision of “sufficient facts” that establish probable cause of a specific offense.

Law enforcement applying for a warrant to search and seize your property must have cause to believe that you have committed an offense. They must only search and seize the property specifically discussed in the warrant. So, if law enforcement has information that leads them to believe that you have drugs in your home, they can obtain a warrant for it, enter your home and take any drugs that they find.

Warrantless searches

Sometimes, law enforcement does not have to wait for a warrant to be issued. They can also execute a warrantless search. However, they must have probable cause to do so. Here are some of the federal “exigent circumstances” that allow for a warrantless search:

  • Law enforcement believes there is contraband present
  • There may be removal or destruction of evidence before a warrant is issued
  • Immediate action is necessary
  • law enforcement believes a search is necessary for safety
  • There is probable cause for a lawful arrest that requires search
  • You consent to a search

If the police suspect that you have illegal substances on your person, they may be able to search you without warrant. Similarly, they will likely search you if they believe you are carrying a weapon and posing a threat to those around you.

In almost every circumstance, law enforcement does not have probable cause to search your property or your person. If evidence is illegally obtained, it may mean that it is invalid in court. You should always contact an attorney if the police approach you to protect your rights.