There are 5 main categories of “legal” searches that can be performed by police in Okaloosa County:
- The first is based on the doctrine of “plain view.” If the police look in your car and see what they believe is illegal drugs or drug contraband, they have probable cause to search the car. In a house, it is different. Police must have plain view of a felony drug offense or felony drug amount to obtain probable cause to enter and search.
- The second, and most common type of search is based on the defendant’s consent. Many times people are tricked or coerced into consenting to a search of their home, car, or themselves. Police are trained to say things in order to get you to consent to a search. If the consent is legally valid, it is legit. If it is based on police threats, promises, or any type of coercion, the search can be legally challenged by filing a motion to suppress.
- Search incident to arrest. Police can search a person incident to arrest as well as any instrumentality of the crime, which normally refers to a vehicle, depending on the charge. Recent case law has put more restrictions on this practice, so police are getting more creative on finding ways to facilitate “legal” searches.
- Inventory searches. When police tow vehicles, they conduct an inventory search of the vehicle to determine the contents inside and safeguard the car or truck for the towing process. But increasingly, police use inventory searches to conduct de facto searches incident to arrest, even though the latter is considered illegal.
- Exigent circumstance searches. This only applies to felony charges, not misdemeanors. Police can search a home if they are in hot pursuit or the suspect where they would otherwise have probable cause to arrest the individual that they witnesses committing a criminal act. Police can also search based on the concern that important evidence of a felony crime would be lost, spoiled, or destroyed if they did not act to save it.
If you’ve been arrested after a police search in Okaloosa County, call me at (850) 362-6655 for a free consultation.