You get into your car, and you are driving to the movies with your friend. On the way, the police stop you, and they conduct a search of your car. In your car, they find something that should not have been there. But in this case, are you really breaking the law?
The answer to the question depends on certain factors. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches. While the police have the right to search you, in many cases they cannot do it without a search or arrest warrant. A court issues a search warrant after a law enforcement officer submits a sworn statement establishing reasons to believe that either a crime has been committed or is going to be committed. To establish probable cause, however, just the word of the police officer is not enough. Other evidence must support the statement of the police officer.
In some cases, the police may have the right to conduct a search without a warrant. Just as required for issuance of a warrant, if the police can establish probable cause, they may be able to search you without a warrant and make arrests based on what they find during the search. However, probable cause can only be established on the basis of incriminating circumstance and/or evidence, just suspicion of wrongdoing is not sufficient. The police can also seize an illegal substance in plain view such as recreational drugs on a car seat, and arrest you for possession. Police can also conduct a search if, for example, the fellow passenger in a car, gives the police permission for the search.
The law for search and seizure is complicated and differs greatly case-to-case. If you were arrested after a warrantless search of your premises, you should seek the advice of an experienced defense attorney. An attorney can review your case and help you receive the best possible outcome.