If the police knock on your door and demand to search your home, it can cause immediate panic.
This is a natural response. However, it is critical for everyone in Arizona, whether or not they are facing criminal charges, to understand what to do in such situations.
Federal law protects you against unreasonable searches
You are likely familiar with the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This particular amendment protects you against unlawful and unreasonable searches. But what makes a search unreasonable?
A police search is considered unreasonable if:
- The police do not have probable cause or reason to believe they will find evidence of a crime
- They do not have a valid search warrant allowing them to conduct the search and seize any items of evidence
So, what should you do to exercise this right and protect yourself against an unreasonable search?
First: Ask if they have a warrant
This is an essential step to remember. When they knock, ask if they have a warrant. If they do not, you do not have to allow the police to enter your home.
You should remain civil but assertive during this exchange. Be clear that you will not allow a warrantless search of your home, but remaining civil can help prevent the situation from escalating.
What if the police do have a search warrant?
In the event that police do have a warrant, you have the right to see it and review it.
The language in these documents can be complex. However, there are a few specific elements you must look for to make sure the warrant is valid under Arizona law.
A search warrant must:
- Have the signature of a judge or magistrate allowing the search
- List the person and place the police will search
- Outline the specific items police will search for
- Include the time and date that the police execute the search
Even if you determine the warrant is valid, you still have the right to monitor the search and ensure the police respect your person and your property. In these cases, it is also helpful to speak with an experienced attorney to ensure you understand your rights and how to protect them.