Did you know not every search or arrest requires a warrant? Florida law outlines exceptions that allow police officers to arrest someone or to search their property without the need for a judge to issue a warrant first. Our criminal defense attorneys explain how warrantless searches and arrests work in Florida and what you can do if you believe you have been a victim of an illegal search or arrest.

What Is a Search Warrant and What Exactly Does It Authorize the Police to Do?

As the name says, a search warrant authorizes the police to search for evidence in a specific location where they believe a crime is being committed or that evidence of a crime may be found. The police must file a written affidavit to a judge and must show they have enough probable cause to justify the need for a warrant. The judge will then decide whether to sign the warrant or not. If signed, the police may proceed with their search.

The warrant contains a description of the area a police officer is allowed to search. For example, if the warrant authorizes the police to search your home, they cannot search your backyard and vice-versa. If presented with a search warrant, read it carefully to understand which areas of your location it authorizes the police to search.

Can Law Enforcement Search My Property Without a Warrant?

Law enforcement must almost always obtain a warrant before searching your home or property, but there are a few exceptions to this rule. First, if you give police permission to search your home, they will be allowed to do so legally without a warrant. Second, the warrant requirement is less strict when it comes to searching your vehicle. It is understood that one’s expectation of privacy is lower while in their vehicles as opposed to their homes.

Police can conduct searches for evidence that is in plain view. If you are pulled over for a minor traffic infraction and the police officer sees you are in possession of drug paraphernalia, he or she may search your vehicle without a warrant. They may also conduct a warrantless search if they believe there is an emergency situation, such as a hidden weapon in your vehicle. Finally, they may also conduct a warrantless search after an arrest. When they arrest someone, they can search the person and the immediate area surrounding that person.

Can Law Enforcement Make Arrests Without a Warrant?

While most situations requiring an arrest will also require a warrant unless the crime was committed in the presence of an officer, Florida law outlines a long list of exceptions to that rule. Chapter 901.15 allows for warrantless arrest of several misdemeanors and felonies under certain circumstances.

There are currently twenty-two different types of offenses that allow an officer to take someone into custody without a warrant, including assault, battery, domestic violence, certain drug crimes and stalking, to name a few. You are also subject to a warrantless arrest after violating the terms of your probation, after a traffic crash or after a misdemeanor DUI.

How Can an Attorney Help Fight Back Against an Illegal Search or Arrest?

If you have been charged with a crime after being arrested without a warrant or being subjected to a warrantless search, contact Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett. Our legal team can help question the legality of the search or arrest and question whether law enforcement had enough probable cause to conduct them in the first place. If any incriminating evidence was gathered as a result of an illegal search or arrest, it may likely become inadmissible in court, making it harder for prosecution to proceed with your case. Contact us for a free case review to see how we can help.