Cases involving search warrants can be tricky, especially when individuals aren’t aware of what their rights are in relation to search and seizure by the police. Search warrants can be used when there is probable cause that a crime is being committed in your home or probable cause that illegal items are being stored in your home, in your car, or on your person. Search warrants must be looked at in detail in order to ensure that the police acted within the law and your constitutional rights were not infringed.
While you generally need to be given notice by the police before they begin their search, there are times where notice isn’t needed. This includes when there is a suspicion that illegal items may be disposed of or hidden and when the life or safety of the officer is threatened.
Though the police have the right to retain anything that was illegally used or obtained, in many situations you can retrieve what is legally and rightfully yours. Wrongfully taken property will be returned to you by order of a court judge. This generally happens if the wrong item is confiscated, if there is no adequate probable cause, or the search warrant is over 15 days old, after which it is void. Rightfully taken property can be retrieved when the case is dismissed, if the defendant is acquitted, if the state doesn’t appeal the case, or if the item was held without real reason. Many instances of repossession require a court order for the items to be released.
The police do not always need a warrant to search you. If you are arrested on the street or for a traffic violation, the police can search your person or your car without a warrant. They also don’t need a warrant when you give your permission, or when illegal items are in plain view.