When you encounter a law enforcement officer, and the incident ends in an arrest, it's vital to know what rights they have in regard to a search. Arrests and searches are two separate acts, and the legality of each part can come into play when you and your attorney prepare your defense. Read on to find out about the legality of searches that are said to be incident to an arrest.
No Warrant Needed
There are very few situations where law enforcement has the power to carry out a search without a warrant. When no warrant has been prepared, there are specific circumstances where the officer can search your person, vehicle or home after you have been arrested. Searches serve an important function. They protect officers against weapons, and they produce needed evidence for criminal cases. When probable cause exists for the arrest, and the circumstances fall into place, the evidence gathered during such searches is admissible as evidence in a trial.
Here is an example: You get stopped for an expired tag. When the officer learns that your driver's license has been suspended, they have the right to arrest you. Once they do so, a search of your car produces prescription opioid medications for which you have no prescription. Even though the officer had some leeway on whether or not to cite you for the suspended license or arrest, the arrest is legal and so was the search that resulted in additional charges.
Incident to an arrest searches have wide latitude, but there are limitations. The search must be carried out only on vehicles and residences that are spatially related to the arrest location. If the officer arrests you in the parking lot of your apartment building, searches they carry out in your apartment could result in any evidence found being thrown out. They always have the right to search your person incident to an arrest. Only if they have probable cause, however, can they carry out a search (without a warrant) in other locations.
Law enforcement may have other options that can result in probable cause. In the above example of being arrested in the parking lot of your apartment, they may offer you the opportunity to step back inside your apartment to retrieve a coat, shoes, or identification. When you do so, an officer will accompany you. Doing so automatically expands the scope of a potential search if they spot something suspicious in the apartment.
If you have been arrested and have reason to believe that an illegal search was performed, speak to your criminal defense attorney immediately. For more information, check out a website like http://www.gdamianilaw.com.