The Fourth Amendment protects Missouri citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. In most cases, police and other law enforcement entities must have a valid search warrant or other lawful reason to enter your home.
Judges issues search warrants, generally when they believe there is probable cause that you have committed a crime or that evidence used in the commission of a crime is located in your home. Without probable cause, law enforcement typically has no right, without your permission, to gain entry.
What does a search warrant cover?
Under Missouri law, police may search your home if they believe and a judge concurs that:
- You have committed a crime
- You have possession of stolen property
- You accepted stolen or illegal property from someone who committed a crime
- You possess material to manufacture illegal drugs
- A person with an outstanding arrest warrant is at your home
Other situations may also lead to a warrant being issued.
Steps to take if police have a warrant
If law enforcement knocks on your door, you do not have to let them enter without first demanding to see a valid search warrant. Here are two ways to respond:
- Ask them to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up outside. Read it over carefully. Here are three basic types:
- Search warrant: Allows officers to enter the home as long as it’s for the address listed, but they can only search the areas or for items listed on the warrant.
- Arrest warrant: Allows officers to enter the home if they believe the person named on the warrant is in the house.
- Warrant of Removal: Deportation or “ICE” warrants do not allow officers to enter your home.
- Even when served with a valid warrant, you do not have to talk to officers. You have a right to remain silent.
If they arrest you, under no circumstances try to resist. Any altercation with officers can lead to separate charges. Once in custody, exercise your Fourth Amendment rights and tell them you will not answer their questions without an attorney.
How a criminal defense attorney protects you
In some cases, police can conduct a search without a warrant, such as if you consent, they see evidence in plain sight, or they justify it by saying an emergency situation exists. A judge must still validate their actions soon after.
If you believe the search was unjustified, an experienced criminal defense lawyer will scrutinize their actions to see whether your rights were violated. If police did not have probable cause or made other mistakes, the judge may toss out any evidence obtained. Your lawyer is there to ensure that your constitutionally guaranteed rights are protected.