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Can I be arrested or searched without a valid warrant?

One of the primary questions people have when they are subjected to a search by police officers is whether the search is legal. The requirements for a legal search are set forth by the Fourth Amendment. While many people think that the only way police officers can perform a search is with a warrant, that isn't the case. Warrantless searches are lawful as long as they meet the requirements for being reasonable.

Can a police officer conduct a search if I'm arrested?

If you are lawfully arrested, a police officer can conduct a search without a warrant. This search can include only very specific areas. The officer is allowed to search you, your clothing and anything within your immediate reach. This is so that the officer can ensure his or her own safety from hidden weapons. If you are in a vehicle, the interior of the vehicle, including the glove box, can be searched. A truck, however, can't be searched unless the officer has probable cause to believe that there is evidence of a crime in the trunk. If the vehicle is impounded after your arrest, it can be lawfully searched without a warrant.

When can a law enforcement officer arrest me?

You can be arrested if there is an arrest warrant on you. A felony arrest can be conducted in public if the police officer has probable cause to suspect that you committed a specific crime. With the exception of being in hot pursuit of a fleeing felon, a felony arrest in a non-public place must be done on the basis of a warrant. In the case of a misdemeanor warrant, an arrest can be conducted if the crime happened in the officer's presence.

There are many ways that a police officer can assert the reasonableness of a search. Anyone who has been arrested or searched and believes the actions by the officer weren't lawful should seek to better understand the terms and protections of the Fourth Amendment.

Source: FindLaw, "The Fourth Amendment "Reasonableness" Requirement," accessed Sep. 02, 2015

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