When can the police search my car, my house, or me? Must they have a search warrant?

Usually the police need a warrant to search either you or things you own, such as your car and house. If you are ever handed a search warrant, you should read it carefully to make sure the police have the right person and correct address, and that the judge’s name and signature are included. The warrant should also tell you what the police are looking for and what they have a right to search. However, sometimes a warrant is not needed. Here are a few examples of when a warrant is not needed by a police office:

  • If you are lawfully arrested, the police may search you and the area within your immediate reach and control.
  • If the police reasonably believe that you are armed and dangerous, they may frisk you.
  • If the police are in hot pursuit, they may pursue you without a warrant.
  • If the police have a reasonable belief that you have contraband in your car or have evidence of a crime in the vehicle, they may search your car without a warrant. Further, if you are arrested, the police may do an inventory search to identify all articles in your car.
  • In emergency situations that could involve the loss of life or serious injuries, the police may conduct a search.

Remember, a minor child living with parents is under their supervision and care, so parents can consent to a search of the child’s room even though the child has not consented to such a search.