Malamut & Associates


Search, Seizure and Arrest Rights Under the Fourth Amendment

August 17, 2017 |

Under the law, it is understood legal authorities need a warrant for search, seizure and arrests, but the law is more nuanced than the average citizen may realize. In some cases, a warrant is not required but it must be under reasonable circumstances to comply with the protections for American citizens under the Fourth Amendment. These exceptions are made when the job of the law enforcement official would be impeded by the need to go to the Court for a warrant.

Felony Arrest in Public Place

Even when an officer has enough time to get a search warrant, an officer can arrest a person for a felony given they have probable cause that the person committed the crime. However, if it is necessary to enter a private property, a warrant is required for the arrest. In a similar vein, it is lawful for an officer to arrest someone for a misdemeanor that was committed in their presence.

Searches After Lawful Arrest

After a lawful arrest, whether the arrest was made with or without a warrant, the officer can search the suspect’s person, their clothing and all other areas that were within the suspect’s immediate reach. This is to protect officers from potentially hidden weapons that could be used against them. As such, they are only allowed to seize items in the immediate reach of the suspect that could fall into their control. Other seizure is not technically lawful.

Vehicular Stop Under Reasonable Suspicion

Vehicles can be stopped if an officer has reason to believe they have violated a traffic law. After the stop, the officer may search the vehicle only if there is a probable cause to believe there may be contraband or illegal materials, including the glove compartment. However, if a vehicle is impounded, it can be searched without a warrant or probable cause.

Exigent Circumstances

This type of circumstance is when there is a potential or current emergency situation that requires immediate action to prevent danger to life or serious damage to property. It also includes stalling the escape of a suspect or the destruction of evidence. Determination of whether circumstances can be considered exigent comes down to a court reviewing the totality of the circumstances. This includes factors such as underlying offenses and the actions of the suspect, such as attempting to flee or escape. Outside factors, such as shots being fired or screams heard, are also taken under advisement.

Other circumstances, such as fixed roadside checkpoints, criminal activity arising in a public setting, or other extenuating conditions that are deemed reasonable can be declared valid. If you have been arrested or were subject to search or seizure and you feel your rights were violated, contact us today. At Malamut & Associates, we take the rights of our clients seriously and will work to ensure your legal protection.