Warrantless Search and Seizures in Arizona

If you are ever under suspicion of a crime or subject to a criminal investigation in Arizona, law enforcement may conduct a search of your home and belongings to find evidence. The Constitution’s fourth amendment protects citizens from unlawful searches, and searches require a warrant to be lawful. However, certain urgent situations can lead to a warrantless search and seizure.

Exceptions to Warrant Requirements

A member of law enforcement may conduct a warrantless search if he or she has probable cause to do so. While probable cause can refer to an officer having a reasonable motive to arrest an individual suspected of a crime, it also refers to having reasonable motives to search a property. This usually applies when the officer has a solid basis to believe someone committed a crime or evidence related to a crime is at a location.

Situations where a lawful warrantless search can occur are:

  • When a party has provided voluntary consent to search. If an officer requests a search and the involved party agrees, the officer may do so. Parents and guardians can provide consent to areas inhabited by minors. While an individual may deny a search request, Arizona law does not require a police officer to inform the individual of this fact.
  • When an item is in plain view. If the officer is lawfully in a place and notices something in plain sight, such as a bag of illegal drugs or a weapon, the officer may conduct a further search and seize the item for evidence.
  • When an individual is in custodial arrest. If an individual is under arrest, he or she is subject to a lawful search. The exact nature of the crime is not relevant, so long as the individual is already in custody. An officer may also search a car without a warrant if he or she suspects a crime and the driver is in custody.
  • When exigent circumstances call for it. If an officer is pursuing a suspect or believes someone is in danger, he or she may enter homes without a warrant. If the involved case goes to trial, the officers must prove that an urgent situation existed to necessitate the warrantless entry.

Some searches can permit further seizures if law enforcement officers find additional evidence. For example, if police conduct a warrant for possession of illegal firearms uncovers evidence of illegal drugs, then that evidence is also legally viable for seizure under probable cause, so long as it was within the space the warrant dictated.

Your Rights in a Search

If an officer approaches your home with the intent to search, you have the right to ask for the warrant. If one does not exist and an exclusion does not apply, then you are within your rights to deny the search. Even if an officer asks for your consent, you may deny it, no matter what tactics an officer may use to try to coerce you, as consent must be voluntary.

If law enforcement conducts a search without a warrant or legal exception, then the evidence is subject to the exclusionary rule and the courts will likely reject whatever evidence the search yielded. The judge will decide whether the court will keep or exclude the evidence after hearing the arguments from the prosecution and defense.

If you are under suspicion of a crime or feel law enforcement conducted a search in violation of your rights in Arizona, you should consult with one of our criminal defense lawyers. We can help you understand your rights and provide a defense with the intent of protecting you from an unjust search and seizure.