Can Police Officers Search Homes and Cars after Reasonable Suspicion Even If They Do not have A Warrant?
Yes and no. Explaining this with an example, in a home, you have significantly more protection and more legal interests in your privacy within a residence than you do in a vehicle. Back in the 1960s, the United Supreme Court came up with a nonsensical fiction that an automobile is what they called a ‘transitory chattel’ that can easily move from place to place and by the time a warrant was secured, the vehicle and the evidence would be gone. Therefore, the Supreme Court created the automobile exception. The police did not need probable cause to pull you over. They need a found suspicion that criminal activity has occurred, is occurring or is about to occur. That justifies the vehicle stop, but we are finding that police officers are over-reaching in more and more cases. Evidence is being suppressed in these cases and in many, charges are reduced and/or dismissed.
The problem with the automobile exception to the warrant requirement is that intellectually, people were not thinking too hard in Washington when this decision came down. For example, there was no such thing as a horse and rider exception to the warrant requirement. Even in the 1960s, the fastest horse and the fastest car could not outrun the police radio. The police radio is a lot quicker. Therefore, it is a poorly reasoned decision, it has been around for decades, and it is still there. I actually think that this case will be reversed in the next several years. I am actively looking for cases that may be impacted by this change in law.
When it comes to vehicles then, you are looking at the legal standard known as reasonable suspicion. This often ties people up into knots. They think that before the police take a statement or do a search and seizure, they are going to read you your rights. This is mostly because of media, Hollywood, TV, Netflix, etc. However, it is not true. It causes a lot of people to damage their cases because in the back of their mind, they are thinking, “I got them. This police officer did not read me my rights. Therefore, I am going to win”. So, they just babble and talk their heads off because they think that the police officer has violated their constitutional rights and their statement will be thrown out no matter what they say. However, the problem with that is that police officers are professional statement takers. They have been taught by criminal law attorneys and prosecutors to put their toe right up to the line as much as possible in order to gather evidence. They do not want to read you your rights. They want to avoid reading you your rights. There is an entire system for lying to people in order to outsmart them, manufacture a conviction, and it’s called “knock and talk”.
Drug case basics: Cop goes up to a house and says, “My sergeant down at the precinct has been driving me crazy saying that you guys are big time dealers and I should be doing an investigation and charging you guys with trafficking. He says you’re responsible for almost 30% of all the cocaine and meth and pot coming in. My sergeant told me I had to come check it out.” Even if the police know that they may be smoking for personal use at most and they are not dealers, sure enough, the person opening the door says, “No man. Come on in, it’s just personal use. We just had a few puffs, that’s all”. But the next thing you know, everybody in the house is arrested.
Since that person was not taken into custody and the custody was not a temporary detention, it was actual custody as opposed to a temporary detention, which for some obscure reason, on the part of the United States Supreme Court, the two are different. However, if the person is not in custody or they are not asked questions, also known as custodial interrogation, then as far as reading someone their rights before questioning, the Fifth Amendment, right to remain silent, the Miranda warning does not apply at all. This throws people off. The smartest thing someone should do if the police start asking them questions as part of a vehicle stop or request to search a home or check their pockets or whatever, the person should immediately say, “I would like to speak to an attorney”.
Body cams are increasingly being adopted by law enforcement agencies across the country. In Florida, agency after agency is using body cameras. Therefore, when someone says, “I would like to speak to an attorney” and they do that early, there is a good chance it is going to be recorded. Then if someone has convenient memory and they do not remember that later on whether the person invoked their Sixth Amendment right to counsel, then that body cam evidence is going to show that they did and that is very important.
If you want to know Whether Police Can Conduct A Warrant-less Search When They Suspect Drugs In Florida, call Attorney Stephen G. Cobb of the Cobb Criminal Defense Law Firm in Florida for a FREE Initial Consultation at (850) 669-5882 and get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.