The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects you from being subject to unreasonable police searches. In most cases, this requires the police to obtain a search warrant.
And what if they have a search warrant? Simply because they have a warrant does not mean that you do not have options. It is critical to understand what steps you can take to protect your rights.
What should you do if police have a search warrant?
First, it is important to note that if the police do not have a warrant, you usually do not have to allow a search. Your Fourth Amendment rights protect you, your home and your personal effects – even your cellphone.
If South Carolina police do return with a warrant the search is often considered legal. However, in this case, it is critical to:
- Ask to see the warrant: You have a right to see the search warrant before a search. A search warrant must meet several requirements to be valid. For example, it must have a judge’s signature and specifically state where police will search. It must also have the correct information, such as your name and address. If there is a mistake on the warrant, you can deny police entry and claim the warrant is not valid.
- Observe the search: In most cases, you also have the right to be present during the search. Police cannot disrespect your property or you during the search. Even though they can seize items in plain sight, they cannot search out of the bounds established by the search warrant. If they do not follow protocol during the search, you may be able to challenge the legality of the search.
- Remember you do not have to help them: You do not have to assist the police during their search. You do not have to speak to them either, especially without an attorney present. For example, police can search your phone or computer if they arrest you, but you do not have to provide them with the passwords to unlock these devices.
You must understand your rights in these situations, so you can protect them and your future.