Do the Police Need a Warrant to Search My Home?

Search-Warrant-300x200In criminal cases, it is common for the prosecution to seek to admit into evidence things that were seized by the police as a result of the search of a residence. One of the first things that a criminal defense attorney does in a criminal case involving the search of a house is to determine whether the evidence seized by the police can be admitted in court.

If the court is convinced that the search of your home was conducted without a Search Warrant, and that none of the recognized exceptions were present, then the search would be considered unreasonable and all of the evidence seized as a result of the search would not be admissible in Court.

As a general rule, the police are required to obtain a Search Warrant if they want to search your home. If the police obtained a Search Warrant, then the likelihood of convincing a Court that the evidence should not be admissible is very low. But if the police searched your home without a warrant, then your lawyer will have a basis to challenge the admission of the evidence in court.

The Search Warrant requirement is based on the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Fourth Amendment prohibits the government from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures. A search of your home without a warrant is generally considered to be unreasonable. But just like with any other rule, there are exceptions. Here’s the exceptions to a Search Warrant being required to search your home:

Consent: If you give the police permission to search your home, then they do not need a Search Warrant. Consent can be written or verbal. In most criminal cases, the police Will have you sign a document giving them permission to search your home. Just because the police did not have you sign a document giving them permission to search your home does not mean that the consent was not valid or that a court will not accept the consent.

Plain View: The Supreme Court has held that if you leave something in plain view, you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. So if an officer is otherwise legally inside your residence and sees something that he believes is illegal, such as a gun or drugs, then the officer can seize the evidence pursuant to the Plain View Doctrine.

Search Incident To Arrest: If a police officer makes a lawful arrest, the officer may search the person that was arrested and the area within the immediate control of the person being arrested.This exception usually applies to warrantless searches of motor vehicles.

Exigent Circumstances: A simple way of explaining this exception is to describe this as the emergency exception. And example would be a fire or something that would suggest that the property would be destroyed if it wasn’t seized. A couple of years ago I had a case involving a client who had gotten into an argument with a neighbor and told the neighbor that he was going to kill himself before going into his house and locking the doors. When the police arrived, they tried to contact the client inside the house but he was not responding. Fearing that he may kill himself, the police entered the home. Upon entering the home they found drugs on the kitchen table and several firearms on the bed.

Hot Pursuit: If the police are chasing after a suspect and enter a home in hot pursuit of that subject, then they do not need a warrant to enter that home. Several years ago I had a case involving a client who was being chased in his vehicle by the police. The client made it to his home and when he pulled into the garage, he ran into his house. The police were following him and they ran into the house to arrest him. When they entered the house, they saw many stolen items throughout the house. The stolen goods were recovered and admitted in Court as evidence to prove the Theft charges against my client.

Whether the search of your home was unreasonable or not will depend on the specific facts of your case. It is critical that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the law and understands how to challenge the state and keep evidence out of your trial. Fighting the admissibility of evidence in a criminal case because it was obtained without a search warrant is a difficult task that requires a criminal defense attorney who has the necessary experience handling criminal cases and knows how to get evidence thrown out of court.

James Dimeas, is a nationally-recognized, award-winning, criminal defense lawyer, with over-27 years of experience handling criminal cases in Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, and Lake County. Recently, James Dimeas was named a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer in the State of Illinois for the Year 2018 and 2019” by the American Society of Legal Advocates. James Dimeas was named a “Best DUI Attorney” and a “Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Chicago” by Expertise. James Dimeas was named a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer” by the National Trial Lawyers. The National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys awarded James Dimeas the “Top 10 Attorney Award for the State of Illinois.” James Dimeas is rated “Superb” by AVVO, the highest classification possible for any criminal defense lawyer in the United States. The American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys recognized James Dimeas as a “10 Best Attorney for Client Satisfaction.” Attorney and Practice Magazine gave James Dimeas the “Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorney Award for Illinois.

If you have a criminal case in Illinois, you can contact James Dimeas anytime for a personal consultation by calling him at 847-807-7405.

Additional Resources:

The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Additional Blogs:

What Happens at a Preliminary Hearing in Illinois, by James G. Dimeas, Chicago Criminal Lawyer Blog, May 23, 2017.

Do The Police Have To Read You Your Rights If You Are Arrested?, by James G. Dimeas, Chicago Criminal Lawyer Blog, September 5, 2017.