Generally police must obtain a search warrant before they can legally search someone’s home or search their property. As with most topics in the law there are exceptions to the search warrant requirement.
The most common exceptions that police use are the search of a person or a search based on probable cause. If police believe you may have weapons or illegal drugs on your person the police may conduct a pat down search. See Terry v. Ohio. If during the pat down search police feel a weapon or drugs he or she may then remove the item from you. Police may not search you beyond the scope of the pat down without your permission or unless they feel a weapon on you.
Additionally police may not search your property without a warrant, permission, or probable cause. This area is a more complicated topic of search and seizure law. Essentially when dealing with a search of your home police must obtain a warrant unless exigent circumstances exist or you grant permission.
Moreover, exigent circumstances are emergency situations in which if police took time to get a warrant evidence could be destroyed. Police are required to have probable cause in addition to an exigent circumstance to search a home without a warrant in North Carolina.
Police have a little more leniency to be able to search a vehicle as compared to a home since the expectation of privacy is considered to be greater in the home. Police may perform a search of a vehicle if they have probable cause to believe weapons or other illegal substances are in the vehicle at the time of the stop. Additionally just like any other search, police may search a vehicle if they are given permission to search.
If police perform an illegal search then any evidence obtained during that search cannot be used in court. If you have been charged with a crime as a result of a search performed by police you need to contact an attorney who can review your case.
Our attorneys at Robert J. Reeves, P.C. have experience handling criminal cases in NC and will work tirelessly to defend your case. Contact one of our attorneys directly by calling 704-499-9000 or toll free 877-374-5999 for more information.