It can be terrifying when a police officer unexpectedly approaches you on the street, in your car, or in your own home. These people have guns and power, and anyone who pays attention to the news knows that some of them are not afraid to use force, fire their weapons, or perform illegal searches.
Despite their training, there are a lot of cops who don’t understand the constitutional limits placed on them. And then there are some who understand that there are limits to their power, but they just don’t care.
One of the best ways you can protect yourself is by knowing your rights – including when and how police are allowed to search your property.
Let’s take a look at when police are allowed to perform searches and what you should do if they search you illegally.
When Can Police Search My Car?
When you get pulled over in South Carolina, you are required to cooperate with the police if they ask to see your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.
If they ask to search your car but they don’t have a warrant, you can and should refuse.
But, don’t be surprised if they do it anyway – they do not need a warrant to search a car as long as they can articulate probable cause later in court…
In Carroll v. United States, the US Supreme Court created what has become known as the motor vehicle exception, which allows warrantless searches of vehicles “for contraband goods, where it is not practical to secure a warrant, because the vehicle can be quickly moved …”
So, tell them “No,” and be clear about it. But, don’t try to stop them or get in their way, or you could find yourself charged with obstructing justice.
Can the Police Search My Home Without A Warrant?
Generally, police cannot search your home without a warrant. If they show up without one, you don’t have to let them in or even talk to them. But you can talk if you want – just step outside and close the door so they can’t eyeball the inside of your home.
If they do have a warrant, you should politely ask to see it. It should include your correct address, the exact location they are allowed to search in your home, exactly what they are looking for, and why they think they have probable cause.
If they do not have a warrant or do not show it to you, do not try to physically stop them from searching – continue to refuse consent and make it clear that you are saying no, but do not interfere.
It’s important to note that, even when a warrant is involved, you do not have to speak or answer any questions.
They Didn’t Even Knock!
Usually, police have to knock or in some way announce themselves when they serve a warrant to search a home. But in almost every state, including South Carolina, judges sometimes issue “no-knock warrants” when there is a concern that evidence could be destroyed if they take the time to announce themselves at the door.
These no-knock raids result in the tragic deaths of suspects and police officers, because people tend to defend their homes – often with deadly force – when someone breaks in without identifying themselves as police.
If this happens to you, cooperate the best you can, and call your attorney immediately so we can make sure that the officers had a no-knock warrant. A Myrtle Beach man recently received a multi-million dollar settlement after Drug Enforcement Unit officers barged into his home without announcing themselves and shot him nine times.
Criminal Defense in Myrtle Beach, SC
If you are the subject of a no-knock warrant or if you have been illegally searched with no warrant at all, we may be able to get evidence suppressed that could result in your case being dismissed.
If you were hurt because of a no-knock warrant, we may be able to sue the police and get compensation for your injuries – even if you are guilty of the crime, excessive force can be the basis for a civil rights lawsuit under the state tort claims act or a federal 1983 action.
Call now at (843) 492-5449 or contact us online to speak with a Myrtle Beach criminal defense and civil rights lawyer.