The ability of the police to conduct a search of your home, property, or anywhere you have a reasonable expectation of privacy is subject to Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. This right is so important that if the police violate your Fourth Amendment rights when conducting a search, any evidence they find will not be admissible in court. If the evidence is obtained through actions that constitute an unreasonable search and seizure, that evidence will be considered “fruit of the poisonous tree”—which basically means that if the method of obtaining the evidence was tainted, the evidence itself is also tainted and cannot be used against you in court.
There are certain exceptions that apply to the warrant requirement including consent, search incident to lawful arrest, vehicle inventory search, automobile exception, plain view doctrine, hot pursuit, exigent circumstances, and investigatory stops. As a highly experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer, William C. Fay is well-versed in New Jersey law on warrantless searches and exceptions to the warrant requirement. He uses unlawful search as an effective defense when representing clients facing drug possession, gun charges, and many other crimes in New Jersey. For a free consultation about your case, contact our office at 609-832-3202 and keep reading for more information about search warrant exceptions in NJ.
Did you Consent?
The police may conduct a warrantless search of your home, personal property, or anywhere you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, if you give them consent. Sometimes, people do not know they have the right to not give police consent for a search or they feel pressured to do so. That is why it is important to understand your rights ahead of time. Depending on the circumstances of your case, it could be argued that you did not give consent.
Generally speaking, it is usually not in your best interest to consent to a warrantless search. You are under no obligation to give police consent. The requirements to obtain a warrant exist for a reason and if the police cannot establish probable cause for the search, they will not be successful in obtaining a warrant. There is no reason to make the process easier for police by consenting to the search, if they otherwise would not be able to obtain a warrant.
Were you Being Arrested?
If you are placed under arrest, the police have a right to conduct a search of the immediate area around you without a warrant to protect their own safety and ensure against the destruction of evidence. In the same vein, the police may conduct a warrantless search of your vehicle if it is legally impounded. This is common in cases involving motor vehicle stops resulting in drug charges.
Were you Stopped in a Car?
Since a vehicle is highly mobile, another exception to the search warrant requirement is the automobile exception, which allows police to conduct a warrantless search of an automobile if they have probable cause to believe that a search of the vehicle would reveal evidence of a crime or illegal contraband. Remember, officers do need to show probable cause for any evidence obtained during a car search to be allowed in court.
Was the Evidence in Plain View?
In New Jersey, under the plain view doctrine, if the police are located in a place where they are legally entitled to be, they inadvertently view evidence of a crime or illegal contraband, and the criminal nature of the evidence is immediately apparent to them, no search has occurred and the police may seize the evidence. For instance, you may be charged with possession of heroin if there is a baggie of what appears to be heroin on the floor of your vehicle during a traffic stop.
Were You Being Pursued by Police?
If the police are chasing someone who is trying to escape and that person enters their home, a hotel room, or anywhere else the police would otherwise need to obtain a warrant to search, they may nonetheless enter the structure or dwelling under the hot pursuit exception to prevent the individual’s escape and protect public safety.
Was it an Emergency Situation?
Even without a warrant, the police may enter a home or anywhere an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy if the search is reasonably necessary to protect against a threat to the safety of the police or another person, destruction of evidence, or the escape of a suspect.
Was it an Investigatory Stop?
More popularly known as “stop and frisk”, a warrantless investigatory stop is permissible only when the police have reasonable suspicion that an individual has just committed a crime or is about to commit a crime to search for weapons. The police’s suspicion must not only be objective and reasonable, but also articulable. In other words, they need to be able to explain why the investigatory stop was reasonable and necessary. The way you look, are dressed, or other observable qualities related to your physical appearance are NOT a valid reason to search you.
New Jersey Search Warrant Attorney William Fay is Here for You
If you are facing criminal charges and you feel your rights have been violated, contact experienced criminal defense attorney William C. Fay immediately. He will explain the search warrant requirements and discuss the evidence in your case. If any evidence was obtained from an illegal search and seizure, he will fight to ensure it cannot be used against you. Call 609-832-3202 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation.