Arizona Warrantless Searches and Seizures

Even if you are suspected of a crime in Arizona, you have certain rights that police officers need to respect throughout the investigation. Warrantless searches and seizures are one area that many suspects and defendants worry about.

When can a warrantless search and seizure occur and which factors make it illegal? Acquainting yourself with the laws will make it easier to protect your rights throughout the criminal investigation.

Arizona Laws and Regulations Pertaining to Warrantless Searches and Seizures

Law states that police officers cannot conduct a search, unless a judge is convinced there is a probable cause to do so. This is the first principle of fourth amendment jurisprudence. If a probable cause does exist, the police officer will be granted a search warrant that will ensure the legality of the search.

A few situations contribute to an exception from this rule.

Warrantless searches and seizures can occur legally in the presence of the following:

  • Consent on behalf of the suspect: a defendant or a family member could grant police officers the right to search a house, a room or another part of a property. The officer is not required to tell the respective individual that the search request can be denied.
  • Exigent circumstances: whenever the police is in an immediate pursuit, officers have the right to follow a suspect into a house. The officers should believe that someone is endangered by the activity of the suspect or that a safety concern exists.
  • An item in plain view: whenever a police officer sees an item located in a place where investigators have the right to be, a warrantless search and seizure can occur. There should be probable cause that the respective item is subject to seizure.
  • Warrantless vehicle searches: a vehicle can be searched without a warrant following the arrest of an occupant or when there’s a belief that evidence can be found in the car.
  • Custodial arrest search: whenever a person is taken in custody, a full search may take place. The charge itself doesn’t play a role in the police’s ability to conduct the search.
  • Border searches: all individuals entering the country and their luggage could be subjected to a thorough search without warrant issuing.

Search and Seizure Exceptions: Protecting Your Rights

warrantless searches and seizuresAs you can see, some of the exceptions are open to interpretation and some of them could be conducted at any time. Still, Arizona is committed to protecting everybody’s rights, including in cases when crimes have been allegedly committed.

Following the popular State versus Wilson case in 2007, Arizona undertook specific steps to limit warrantless searches and seizures.

A defendant allegedly kept mercury in their house, which is why police officers entered the property without getting a warrant. Marijuana was discovered on the premises. The house occupant was arrested on drug-related charges.

Due to pressing circumstances (the presence of mercury in the house), the police officers had the right to carry out a warrantless search. According to the Arizona court of appeals, however, the search was not justified. The Supreme Court came to the same conclusion.

What should you do whenever a police officer comes knocking on your door to carry out a search? Ask to see the warrant first. Remember that unless the above-mentioned exceptions apply, an investigator does not have the right to carry out a search. If there’s no warrant and no exception, you can politely ask police officers to leave the property.

If you consent to a search, you could be doing self-incrimination. Evidence could be found, even if you believe there’s no such. Call your criminal defense attorney immediately to inquire about the best way to handle the situation from that point forward.