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I live in Florida. When can police search my home or vehicle?

On Behalf of | Dec 13, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Police cannot enter our homes or search our vehicles on a whim. If they do, the court may consider the search a violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure and throw out any evidence the police found during the illegal search. It is not always easy to determine when authorities violate the right against unreasonable search, as the answer depends on the details of the situation. Still, it is important to understand how the law works to help better protect your rights.

Although we expect privacy in our vehicles and homes, there is a distinction between the two. As such, it is beneficial to discuss each separately.

#1: Can police search my vehicle?

Police cannot simply stop and search any vehicle they choose. They need reason for the stop and must justify a search. Examples that can justify a search include:

  • Warrant. The search is allowed if the police can get a court ordered warrant to search a vehicle. It is important to review the warrant carefully as it applies only to the things listed within the document. It does not generally extend to the garage, home, or other areas unless specifically listed.
  • Arrest. If pulled over and arrested for another crime, the police may search the vehicle if the search is related to the arrest. A common example is an arrest and search for illegal substances.
  • Probable cause. Police can conduct a search if they have evidence of criminal activity. The plain view doctrine can serve as an example. If an officer sees an illegal substance on the dashboard, they can likely seize the substance and use it as probable cause of criminal activity to justify a search.
  • Permission. The police can also ask for permission to search your vehicle. You do not have to agree. You can, and often should, politely decline.

There is also the rare emergency exception, which allows police to search a vehicle without a warrant or permission if they can establish that a failure to search the vehicle would endanger public safety or risk destruction of evidence.

#2: What about my home?

We have a higher expectation of privacy within our homes. Because of this, there are fewer instances when police can conduct a search of our home compared to a search of our vehicles. In most cases, police can only search our homes in one of three instances: they have a warrant, evidence of criminal activity is in plain view, or we provide permission. Again, we do not need to give the police permission to search anything.

We can politely decline.

Options are available if you believe that police violated your right to privacy. One is a motion to supress evidence. This is a viable option if the police gathered evidence as a result of an unreasonable search and seizure. An attorney experienced in this area of criminal defense can review your case and discuss if this or other defense strategies will work best for your situation.