Restrictions on search and seizure

As some North Carolina residents may know, there are rules as to when a citizen or their home may be searched and items may be seized. This right to privacy is protected under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

Law enforcement may be allowed to search an area and confiscate evidence if they believe a crime may be taking place on the premises. For example, if police officers have probable cause to believe that an individual has marijuana stored in his or her basement, they might be able to obtain a search warrant based on the reasonable belief drug crimes occurred there. If, upon entering the residence, the police notice drug paraphernalia in another room, they may confiscate it.

There are instances when police may search without a warrant. The search of a person’s outer clothing may be appropriate if law enforcement officials believe the individual is hiding a weapon on their person. After being arrested and taken into custody, police are empowered to search an individual or his or her vehicle if it was impounded or if police believe it contains evidence of a crime. However, if there is no reason to believe that a crime was or might be committed, such a search is not condoned.

If someone is seen committing a crime and a pursuit ensues with the suspect running into a home, the police may enter the residence without a warrant. Further, under such conditions, police may inspect the premises based on a reasonable idea that someone is hiding there and may be armed.

If an individual is illegally searched, they may wish to contest any charging placed against them. An attorney may assess the situation by reviewing police records and, if the procedure was performed illegally, help structure a formal complaint.