Guest Blog: Search and Seizure

By Paige Pippin*

Most of us are familiar with police having to obtain a search warrant before they can lawfully search our personal property

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

according to the Fourth Amendment. But did you know that there are some exceptions to this rule?
The five types of searches that can be done without a warrant:
Searches that are incident to a lawful arrest
When an officer has made a lawful arrest, then they can search the immediate area in control of the arrestee. In United States v. Robinson, the Supreme Court justified this rule of law when Robinson was arrested for driving without a permit. They searched him at the police station and found heroin, which he was charged for. The court ruled that this was a justified action to gain full control. However, in Chimel v. California, Chimel was arrested in one room of his house, but officers searched the entire property. The Supreme Court ruled that officers may only search the immediate area in control of the arrestee without a warrant.
Searches during field interrogation (stop and frisk searches)
Terry v. Ohio was a case involving stops and frisk guidelines. The Supreme Court ruled that officers could pat people down with less than the traditional amount of probable cause that is usually required. Not too long ago in 2000, Illinois v. Wardlow is where the court established that fleeing from officers supports the need for a search of the person.
Searches of automobiles that are carried out under special conditions
Carrol v. United States established that the officer must have enough probable cause that if there were time, a search warrant would be issued and that the circumstance requires immediate action. In Preston v. United States, the Supreme Court said that once an arrest has been made and the car has been relocated, a search may not be conducted without a warrant because it would not be incidental to the arrest. In April of 2009, the Supreme Court decided that if a person has been arrested and is away from their vehicle, then it cannot be lawfully searched. It can be searched if it is believed that the arrestee might have access to the vehicle or there may be evidence that correlates to the offense of arrest.
Seizures of evidence in “plain view”
The “plain view” rule gives officers the authority to seize items that are in plain view. For instance, if an officer is let into a house and there are drugs on the counter, the officer may seize them and arrest the occupant on drug charges.
Searches when consent is given
When an individual gives officers consent to search their vehicle or property, then evidence found is admissible into court. However, if one occupant objects and the other gives consent, then the officers are not allowed to search. If the other occupant is absent or is silent, then the officers may search once given consent. In hotels, a manager cannot give consent to an occupied room. The individuals still have their privacy and must give their consent.

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Paige Pippin is from Denton, Texas and is a Criminal Justice major with a minor in Legal Studies. She is in the Honors College, the Criminal Justice Fraternity Lambda Alpha Epsilon, and Crime Victims Service Alliance. She loves being active and her favorite thing to do is play volleyball. She absolutely loves it here in Huntsville and after she graduates in the summer, she plans on going to law school.  

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