One of the first things people turn to when it comes to police officers doing searches and seizures is the Fourth Amendment. This amendment to the Constitution provides very specific rights for Americans; however, there are also certain exclusions to those protections. Learning about this amendment can help you if you are ever subjected to a search or seizure.
Many people think that the Fourth Amendment means that police officers can never initiate a search if they don't have a warrant. That isn't the case. Police officers can search areas with consent without needing a warrant. Without consent, the need for a warrant is usually dependent upon the location and the circumstances of the search.
Police officers generally don't need a warrant to initiate a search if the search occurs in conjunction with a lawful arrest. They also don't need a search warrant if the items they are after are in plain sight. Probable cause to search a home when there are exigent circumstances might also give police officers the right to search a home without a warrant.
In the case of a traffic stop, police officers don't need a warrant to do a pat down of a person. They don't need a warrant if there is probable cause to believe evidence of a crime is in the vehicle.
In all cases, the need to keep the public safe is weighed against your personal rights. If you feel you have been subjected to an unlawful search or seizure, looking into the matter is vital. In some cases, an unlawful search or seizure might impact your criminal defense.
Source: United States Courts, "What Does the Fourth Amendment Mean?," accessed Aug. 04, 2015