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Knowing Your Rights During a Police Search

Dealing with potential criminal charges is incredibly stressful. At the Law Offices of Dennis W. Stanford in Clarksville, Tennessee, we know that this is a difficult time and we want to help. It's easy to panic when officers want to search your property. But with our detailed informational guide, you can stay aware of your rights during this difficult time.

What Do I Do If the Police Want to Search Me, My Vehicle, or My Property?

Ask the officers if they have a warrant for this search. If not, ask on what factual basis they believe that they have the right to search you, your vehicle, or your property. Unless you are absolutely certain there is nothing relevant to any crime (this is sometimes different than what they're actually searching for) on you or in your property, you should refuse to consent to any search.

As a general rule, if an officer has to ask your permission to search, they don't have any lawful basis for a warrantless search. Politely refuse to go forward with the search. If there is anything to be found (such as illegal drugs) consenting to the search will not help you. Requiring the police to bring in a K-9 unit, obtain a warrant, or to articulate a basis for a warrantless search is an exercise of your constitutional rights. This is unlikely to make your situation any worse. Do not consent.

When Warrantless Searches Are Permitted

During Arrest: An officer may search your body and clothing for weapons or other contraband when making a (valid) arrest. Don't resist the officer's efforts, even if you believe that the arrest is unlawful. If you're arrested in a vehicle, the officer may search the vehicle, though the probable cause is needed to search locked compartments.

Exigent Circumstances: Searches may be conducted in bona fide emergencies that require immediate action.

Plain View: An officer may seize evidence that is in their view, so long as they have a right to be in the position that allowed them to see it.

Consent: Officers can search if you give them permission to do so.

Questions About Searches

If you have further questions about exercising your basic constitutional rights or interacting with the police, contact our office. We'll set up an appointment to discuss your specific situation.