The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." The founding fathers were so concerned with the right to privacy and preventing law enforcement from barging into private residences for any reason that they clearly enshrined it in the Constitution. While the Fourth Amendment still guides how police officers in the 21st century obtain warrants, courts have interpreted the amendment to allow for several exceptions over the years, so it’s important to understand when the actions of police and have or have not violated constitutional protections.
How Police Obtain Warrants
As outlined in the Fourth Amendment, police officers today still obtain search warrants by providing information to a neutral and detached magistrate that either through their own observations or from information provided by witnesses or a confidential informant, they have probable cause to believe criminal activity is occurring at a specific place. If these requirements aren’t met, the warrant is not valid. Once issued, police can only search the place described in the warrant. If the warrant is only for a backyard of a home and not the home itself, police are restricted to only search the backyard.
When It’s Not Necessary for Police to Obtain a Warrant
While police in Illinois need a warrant to conduct most types of searches, courts have recognized the following exceptions to the warrant requirement:
· Consent- If police ask you if they can take a look around your home, you are consenting to a search without a warrant. You may limit the area of the home that police search, but courts have some discretion in determining just how far that limitation goes. You may also refuse to consent to a search. Refusing to consent to search alone does not give police probable cause to search a home.
· Plain View- If you open your door to speak with police and illegal contraband is in plain view of the officer when the door is opened, police do not need permission to enter your residence to confiscate the contraband.
· In Connection with an Arrest- Police may search the immediate area of an arrest, or conduct a sweep of a residence if they believe an accomplice may be hiding therein. However, the purpose of this sweep must be to protect others, not to search for evidence.
· Emergency- If police reasonably believe a person is in danger or evidence related to a lawful arrest may be destroyed if they take the time to properly obtain a warrant, they may enter a residence without a warrant for the purpose of public safety.
Contact a Chicago Defense Lawyer
The right to be free of a warrantless search in America is sacrosanct. If you believe that police officers in Illinois have violated your right to illegally obtain evidence against you, an experienced attorney can petition a court to have this evidence suppressed. For more information, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation.