Author Options:

What is a legal search by the cops and what is illegal? Answered



Did the site just go offline then? I couldn't get on, and when I did it looked weird. Now it's back.

Can you read, or are those veins bulging from your forehead covering your eyes? I said associate. Look up "known associate" in one of those law books on your shelf, or maybe your no more a lawyer than I am.
"Untill you know who I am;....you can keep your opinion to yourself."
Where are you located? The hand holding offer is still open.

The question was asked, answers were offered,end of story.

If they have a warrant, signed by a judge, specifying the person or place to be searched and the things or people they're searching for, then it's a legal search.

Otherwise it is an illegal search.

Or at least that's the way it used to be, in the old United States, per what is specified in the 4th Amendment to the old US constitution.  However, things might have changed since then... 

Use caution, and the best impression of respectfulness you can, when dealing with cops.   Cops are irritable, paranoid, dangerous people, and that's before strapping on a service revolver.  Most of them are in a bad mood, pretty much most of the time, or at least while on duty.

Well..not quite. Probable cause is sufficient for alot of searches. For instance, if your auto stinks of fresh "skunk", they can search the vehicle to look for drugs in many, if not all US states, just as if they smelled cordite in your smoking garage with a hole recently made in the roof by same said cordite related materials, they would be able to use probable cause to search for explosive devices.

Yeah, you're right.  I overlooked "probable cause", and also the possibility that one might give his or her consent to be searched.  Another valid critique of my answer is that contains some pejorative stereotyping regarding cops.  Erm...yeah...

Actually, I think Oddjobzombie has provided the most clear, succinct, and Best answer here, with:
"Any search that the officer executes without your permission, a warrant or probable cause is illegal."

Ahhh!  I didn't see this!

Can't say that I blame you!!

I agree.

It took one experience, and my view changed 360.

Whatever happens it is crucial to have witnesses or a camera. I had neither.

The Police Complaints Authority (Oz), investigate their own. My complaint was dismissed. Most all of them are.

Whatever the law,- you need back-up. Police nowadays are largely thugs that are legally entitled to bully. They have the uniform and badge to prove it.

If you are on your own- and are no threat-you have every right to be concerned. The police have the law on their side.

That, and a bad attitude to all of society makes them dangerous.

If you think the police are thugs then I'm not sure you know what a thug really is.  Maybe a very small percentage are but how many thugs do you thing there are in a real biker bar.   Who you gonna call when you have an emergency?

Until you know who I am; what my situation was; and what the situation is in Australia, you can keep your opinion to yourself.

How interesting that you didn't seek to respond to Jack and his comments!

What do you expect? Globally deinstitutionalization has been in vogue for 20 years or more. The streets are peppered with those with mental health problems/ the homeless/the unemployed.

Couple that with the decreasing in police numbers (certainly over here), and you end up with a powder keg of boiling dissatisfaction evidenced by the things police personnel say online in our newsmedia, when they can speak anonymously.

ALL-all of them are angry! No exceptions. Their contempt for the public-all of us;- is frightening. The problem is increasing because job dissatisfaction because of Government policies...not the public!,- has led to very many leaving the job.

Police standards as a consequence of trying to recruit, have become lower and lower,-our police officers can become so, even when they have a criminal background!! An investigative journalist uncovered this last year.This would be unheard of in previous times.

Let me tell you something else because I am angry at your comments. I am a lawyer -it made no difference. I come from three generations of military-including myself. Military service/law. Runs in the family.

My point is I was raised with the discipline-the conservative view of law and order.

All of that was trashed on 19/6/09.

Who am I going to call in an emergency?? You've now hit on the one thing that terrifies me, and many others. I HAVE to protect myself. I KNOW the alternative, and it's frightening.

As to your biker bar comment, you've lost me? Though I CAN tell you I would feel safer with bikers-I mean that. Bikers here cannot associate with other biker groups/and I can face criminal charges if I associate with them!

These 'anti-association' laws are being currently challenged in the High (highest) Court of Australia. At the State level the Court has found them illegal. The Government has Appealed.

Yes. I would feel safer with the bikers than Government sanctioned thugs.


Don't you even attempt to tell me that I do not.

I responded to his question but asking for more info. 

You used it as a chance to insult the police.

I can express any opinion I have here until the owners of the site tell me i can't.

You obviously have had a bad experience with the police at sometime.

I haven't.  I would still rather depend on them when I need help.

You tell me not to make comments about you since I don't know you, but you made a blanket statement that police are largely a bunch of thugs.  Do you know all of the police? 

Don't feed the trolls.

I agree with you Re-design but Z's comment was better ignored.

Z, this discussion went off topic a long time ago and as such it is not suitable for Answers.  You should take it to the forums or elsewhere if you wish to continue.

What an irony! Another poster on another site disagreed with forum regulars (of which I was one),-immediately he was labelled a 'troll'!! (Which I disagreed strongly with).

GuardianFox you agree with your fellow regular. You further comment is based on that alone.

So, I have to be categorised as a 'troll'. What a silly excuse!

Don't lecture to me what I should do. We are supposed to be equal here. But like many forums, those that have been on the site a while, believe they are in some way 'senior' to others.

You are not. (However that is only officially. Unofficially regulars are treated differently).

MANY topics go off-topic, as you are well aware. Why should I have this pointed out here-(after being called a troll!!). Because you agree with Re-Design! It's as simple as that.

1) A derogatory comment about police was ignored,..... because it came from a regular-and a male!
2) I responded to it and I get criticised!

3) I defend myself and get called a troll!

Read that well. THAT is the situation.

Perhaps you can now demonstrate your moral superiority and ignore me, as you suggested?
Because; if you continue to criticise me (and ignore Jack A Lopez' remark!!), I will defend myself.

You would do the same.

Again, you are selective who you criticise. Very noticeable.

I unfortunately have worked very closely with police, and I have watched the culture change with increasing alarm, as have many others. MANY.

The police officers who have spoken out about this have been vilified, threatened with death,-and one took his life.

Yes I know police. I learned the hard way that it is unsafe to say anything critical.

I'll repeat the statement: today's Australian police are largely a bunch of thugs, because they are allowed to do what they want.

'Cops are irritable, paranoid, dangerous people, and that's before strapping on a service revolver.  Most of them are in a bad mood, pretty much most of the time, or at least while on duty.' Jack A Lopez

YOU are also a bully Re-design because you ignored this, and had a go at me. I was responding to this comment. You've taken on the response..?

Not going to take on a male eh?

Now:- how are things going to go because I've disagreed with one of the sites regulars?

I live in Australia. I am a biker (bikie over here) associate. I'll hold your hand if you like Z. (That sounds like a biker name). The blokes here are doing their best to answer a question that has probably been asked in the wrong forum and you have hijacked the discussion. Get yourself some help.

You are no more a bikie than I am. If you were you would know that a bikie would never write what you just have.

One thing is clear, how you all gang up on what you see as a soft target!

That is a mistake.

AGAIN: why have you all ignored Jack A Lopez' comment??

Jack-are you now going to back peddle,-and perhaps join in???

Any search that the officer executes without your permission, a warrant or probable cause is illegal.

Here's a link with some good info from the ACLU:

Your answer is fine for the United States.  It doesn't apply elsewhere.

It has a lot to do with where you are - the law determines what is legal :P

GENERALLY:  (Canada, likely similar in America)  The police may not conduct a search without permission unless they have:
A)  there is an immediate threat to life, limb, or property if action is not taken.  i.e. You are under arrest (see also: laws on power of arrest) for a crime you are charged with, past tense, or immediately - they have the right to search your person and your surroundings (i.e. car you were driving) for their own safety and yours.

B) With a warrant, they had to convince a judge that they have evidence of probable cause - they must be able to prove that they had evidence that meant they felt it was likely you had more evidence and that waiting would allow a suspect to destroy evidence, etc.  Warrants have limitations on them -- They specify where may be searched when, and WHAT MAY BE LOOKED FOR.

C) Plain sight.  If you have a big pot plant in your front living room window - they have every right to barge in and arrest you for possession.  This is a 'don't be stupid' clause. 

Where do these rules cross?  Say you are a suspect in a murder case, and your fingerprints are found at a scene of a crime.  They get a warrant to search your house for evidence that you committed the murder.  They search your place and find a pot plant - they may not charge you for that since it's outside of the scope of what they were looking for.

Say you have a meth lab in your bedroom, not visible from the outside.  Say an officer kindly walks up and says "do you mind if I come in and talk?" -- and you allow them inside - THEY NOW HAVE PERMISSION, AND ANYTHING THAT IS NOW PLAIN SIGHT COUNTS AGAINST YOU.  They can't snoop around digging through your stuff because you let them in, but ex. paraphernalia sitting on your coffee table is admissable.   Some would argue that it's private, but you gave up your right to privacy when you allowed them in.  Say they SEE a pile of chemical bottles that are unmistakably associated with a drug lab -- they can use that as evidence to do an immediate search (safety) or use it to get a warrant.

Thankfully, you have internet access - look up your criminal code, charter of rights, constitution, etc - and read them.  In Canada they can be accessed from the Queen's Printer.  I imagine the library of Congress has similar.  

If you do not know your rights, then deny EVERYTHING  (right to habeus corpus - you may not be coerced to self-incriminate), consent to NOTHING, until you have gotten legal advice from a professional.  IF YOU THINK A SEARCH IS ILLEGAL DO NOT RESIST - It probably isn't through some part of the legal code, and adding resisting arrest/assault to your charges will NOT help your case.  If the search was illegal, your lawyer will recognize this and the evidence will be inadmissable.  Police go to GREAT lengths to make sure they are gonna win before they go into a legal situation.

Also, keep in mind that refusing an officer's "reasonable" request to enter your home or look through your car can be interpreted by some as probable cause, since it implies that you may have something to hide.  Typically, this interpretation depends on a number of factors: your demeanor, the lack of an obvious reason or explanation to refuse such a request, or the officer's general outlook regarding a subject refusing his request.

If you don't have a valid reason to refuse an officer's request to enter your home or search your car, then it's best not to make up a reason (as you are not a good enough liar to do this without appearing dodgy; believe me, few are).  If they want to enter the home and talk to you and it's a bad time (like you're on your way to work), explain so calmly and offer a better time or set an appointment for them to come back.  I can't think of any real reason to refuse an inspection of your vehicle, so it's probably just best that you comply.

Not in the U.S.  The fifth amendment of the Bill of Rights guarantees your right not to incriminate yourself, which the courts have universally interpreted to include a right of refusal.  You NEVER have to allow an officer to enter your home or conduct a search just because they ask.  They may, however, choose to detain you while they go through the effort of getting a warrant (and they rely on that inconvenience, as well as their position of authority) to "encourage" you to comply.

Oops, I meant to convey that.  Basically the principle is the same - if they feel they have reason to search you, they will find a way to do so.  It just might take a warrant, and if they feel you are being belligerent or uncooperative it could easily weigh against you.

In a perfect world, refusal by itself is not enough; however, since it requires humans to interpret the spirit as well as the letter of the law, the sad reality is that you could be forced to comply.

Agreed - if you are innocent then definitely, you have nothing to worry about - what I refer to in my last statement is if you are unsure of the law, don't 'do' anything.  Exercise your right to remain silent; as it cannot be used to incriminate you.   If they detain you because you won't comply with a search, let them, then when you are innocent you have every right to raise a stink.    What I'm getting at is don't throw away your rights simply because of convenience. The most important statement in my answer is "learn the law".


This is a great dumbed down article with references to the real law books that will help you understand the situation.

See also: Powers of arrest

I think the police anywhere in the world have got better things to do than harass people for no reason, let alone conduct an "illegal" search just for the hell of it.
If a cop asks or tells you something and you give him attitude, he is not going to walk away. Don't give them a reason. If you or your property then get searched and something is found, then you're a fool. Prison is full of dumb crooks.
I don't live in the U.S. but have heard straight from the horse's mouth, that they are taught to treat any civilian they meet with extreme caution as if they are armed and dangerous, this is purely for their own safety as many cops have been killed on duty. They have families too. So a bad attitude could potentially cost you your life.
If you were caught breaking the law, bad luck.

Insufficient data.  What juristidiction are you in?  Have you tried researching "search and seizure" law for your country?

That all depends on where you are located and what you're doing.

Describe how they searched you and we'll rule on it.