Determining Whether Your Rights Were Violated When Georgetown Police Searched Your Home
This is the next post in our series discussing how search and seizure laws can have an impact on drug possession cases. Our last post discussed common errors law enforcement may make when searching a vehicle during a traffic stop. In this article we will be discussing what rights a person has if Georgetown, Texas law enforcement searches a home search after having obtained a warrant.
Georgetown area homeowners must submit to a search if law enforcement produces a warrant
Georgetown area police must obtain a warrant in order to search a private residence in which citizens enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy. This includes a home you own, a home you rent, a hotel room you are legally renting, a locker space, or a campground. If you are renting the space then the actual owner of the property (i.e. the landlord) may not allow police to conduct a search without your consent. For example, a landlord may give not give permission to police to search a tenant’s home. A roommate could choose to give police permission to search common areas such as a kitchen or living room area but may not give police permission to search another roommate’s bedroom. A hotel manager may not give police permission to search a hotel room that is being legally reserved. However, if a hotel guest has failed to check out, or pay their bill, then the agreement between the customer and hotel is no longer legally binding, and the hotel may give police permission to search the area. In other words, when you have paid a rent then others may not waive your rights to privacy.
Obtaining a warrant to search an area is not a simple task. An officer must go to a Judge and provide evidence that both a crime has occurred and that it is likely for evidence of such crime to be found at a specific location. Law enforcement are not allowed to simply “guess” and request warrants for every location they can think of. A Judge will only sign off on a warrant if a good reason has been presented for doing so. Therefore, if law enforcement is able to provide a warrant, there is little a person can do other than cooperate. If a warrant is presented to you then it is important to read it in detail. There will typically be language that outlines exactly where law officers may or may not search. Police must stay within the confines of the warrant and may not search areas that they have not been given explicit permission to search. This is the law in both our state and throughout the United States of America.
Texas police may search outside of the warrant confines in emergency situations
The exception to the warrant rule is if an emergency situation arises during a lawful search. Police may search outside of a warrant if they have reason to believe that evidence is in the process of being destroyed. For instance, if they have permission to search a home, but notice that a fire is being started in the back yard. Police may reasonably believe that evidence, such as drugs, is being burned, and would have reason to extend their search to the back yard to preserve evidence. Police may also seize evidence that is easily within their field of vision. For example, if they only have a warrant to search the home, but view a firearm through the window of a vehicle in the driveway, they may lawfully seize the weapon.
If your home has recently been searched, or you have been recently arrested on suspicion of drug possession, contact our Georgetown criminal defense attorneys immediately. Our lawyers also service the surrounding communities of Austin, Bartlett, Cedar Park, Florence, Granger, Hutto, Jarrell, Leander, Liberty Hill, Round Rock, Taylor, Thrall, and Weir.