Search warrants are not just something from the movies. If a police officer wants to enter your home and search it, the officer must have a court issued search warrant to do so. According to the United States Constitution, the Fourth Amendment protects all U.S. citizens — in most cases — from being subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures.
The Fourth Amendment reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, [a] against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
It is important to note that the Fourth Amendment only protects against “unreasonable searches” and not against all searches. If the police have “probable cause,” then they may still conduct a search. Searches are generally deemed to be reasonable if: (1) a judge grants a search warrant on the basis of probable cause; or (2) a situation arises that justifies a warrantless search take place. For example, a justified warrantless search might involve police looking for weapons following an arrest.
There is another exception to the amendment against searches. If the person being searched did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy regarding the place being searched, then authorities do not require a warrant. For example, most people feel and expect their homes to be private. On the other hand, most people would not expect their front lawns to be private.
There is a lot more to consider when evaluating whether or not a search and seizure performed by a Baltimore police officer was lawful. Individuals who suspect they were subjected to an illegal search and seizure may wish to speak with a criminal defense attorney to evaluate the facts of their cases.