Crime scene tapeThis is the next post in our series on helping Arkansas residents understand when their rights have been violated. Our last post discussed situations in which an officer does not have probable cause to search a vehicle after a traffic stop. This post will discuss violations police often make when searching a home for evidence.

Arkansas officers must stay within the confines of a warrant when searching one’s home

Arkansas police generally have to gain a search warrant before searching one’s home. An officer trying to obtain a warrant must demonstrate to a Judge that 1) a crime has occurred, and 2) evidence or contraband linking to that crime will likely be found in the specific location for which a the warrant is being requested. Officers must have some reason to suspect evidence may be in the home when requesting the warrant; guesswork or speculation is not enough, under the Fourth Amendment, to grant a search of one’s home. Information used in applying for the warrant must be based on the officer’s observations, experience, or other credible information.

There are circumstances where police may search a home without a warrant. They may do so, for instance, if they have reason to believe that evidence is being destroyed. An example of this would be if an officer has probable cause to believe there are drugs in a home and hears a toilet being flushed repeatedly. This may indicate that evidence is being destroyed and, possibly, the officer would be allowed to search the home without a warrant. Additionally, officers are able to freely seize evidence that is in plain sight without a warrant. An example of this would be if an officer comes to talk to a suspect in their home and are invited in. If the officer in such a situation observed evidence in plain sight then they may seize it without a warrant.

Police must obtain a warrant in order to search a place where Arkansas residents have a reasonable expectation of privacy

The need for a warrant increases as one’s reasonable expectation of privacy increases. While most people are aware that police require a warrant to search a privately owned home, many citizens are unaware that their right to privacy extends to other areas. Citizens generally have a reasonable expectation of privacy in hotel rooms, homes or cabins that have been rented, as well as a tent or RV set up in a camp ground. Even though the individual may not own the property, these are examples of areas in which the law recognizes that a person should be able to reasonably expect privacy. Owners of the property are generally not allowed to give consent to an officer to search an individual’s personal belongings.

If your home has been searched by police without a warrant, or you have reason to believe your rights were violated during a search, contact our Little Rock criminal defense lawyers today.