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When Can New Jersey Police Conduct a Search Without a Warrant?

May 19, 2021 | Posted In Criminal Law |

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures. Under the Fourth Amendment, the police must obtain a warrant to conduct a search in many cases. However, there are several exceptions to the warrant requirement, and if the police perform a valid search without a warrant, prosecutors can use any evidence seized during the search to prove a defendant’s guilt in court.

5 Exceptions to the Warrant Requirement for Police Searches in New Jersey

So, when isn’t a warrant required for the police to conduct a search? Here are five exceptions to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement:

1. Consent

If you consent to a search, then the police can search without a warrant. While you are never required to agree to a search, many New Jersey residents are not aware of this fact—and the police are not required to tell you. Even if you are unaware of your right to refuse consent (or if you feel pressured to give your consent), once you give your consent, the police can lawfully search your person, home or place of business.

2. Plain View

If evidence is in plain view, the police do not need a warrant to seize the evidence. For this “plain view” exception to apply, the police must be able to see the evidence from a place that they are legally entitled to be. For example, if the police can see onto your front porch from the street, then they do not need a warrant to seize evidence on your porch that was visible from the road.

3. Hot Pursuit

If the police are chasing a suspect, they are entitled to continue their chase onto private property without a warrant. If this “hot pursuit” leads them to a location where evidence is in plain view, then they can seize the evidence and make an arrest.

4. Search Incident to Arrest

The police can also search without a warrant when the search is “incident to an arrest.” If the police arrest you with probable cause, they can search your person and your immediate surroundings to ensure their own safety and prevent the destruction of evidence.

5. Investigatory Stop

In New Jersey, the police can conduct an investigatory stop (more commonly known as a “stop and frisk”) if they have reasonable suspicion that a person has committed, or is about to commit, a criminal offense. If an investigatory stop leads to the discovery of weapons, drugs or other evidence, this can justify an arrest (and search incident to arrest) as well.

Talk to a New Jersey Defense Lawyer About Your Legal Rights

There are various other scenarios in which the police can conduct warrantless searches as well (such as exigent circumstances, public safety searches (i.e. 911 call and police go to the location and no one answers the door), limited searches for safety, etc.). 

If you are facing criminal charges in New Jersey and the police conducted a warrantless search, you should speak with a lawyer about your legal rights. Call 877-435-6371 or contact us online now for a confidential consultation.

Over 20 attorneys at HCK have extensive experience in defending criminal cases, as they were former assistant prosecutors and/or police officers for a combined total of over 600 years of law enforcement experience. You can find out more about them on our site, and you can call Managing Partner Ron Helmer on his cell phone at 609 685-0665.

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