We Fight To Win

Attorney Arie Lipinski

Were my rights violated during a warrantless search?

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Evidence is the crux of any criminal case in Indiana whether it is related to drugs, weapons, theft or any other allegation. As law enforcement investigates a crime, it typically conducts a search of a person’s home, automobile and other property in order to gather evidence.

Since these searches are fundamental to the prosecution’s case, it is important for people confronted with charges to be fully aware of their rights when they are subjected to search.

What should I know about warrantless searches?

The U.S. Constitution protects the public from unreasonable search and seizure. This means that, generally, police need a search warrant, but there are many exceptions.

For example, if something is in plain view to police officers, then they do not need a warrant in order to gather it for evidence.

Another example is an emergency situation. When an officer needs to act to stop a person from discarding or destroying evidence, it is also allowable to do a warrantless search.

This must be distinguished from structures or buildings where a person can reasonable expect privacy.

Traffic stops

Often, people are arrested after a traffic stop and a vehicle search. This is especially common in drug cases. A warrant is not needed if the vehicles was impounded or seized and the officer is searching it for an inventory.

This will include items that were in an accessible container, but cannot be seen by a simple search. In this situation, locked and closed areas can be searched without a warrant.

During an arrest, the officer can conduct a basic search of the person and containers they possess.

If the person is in a motor vehicle, the officer can search passenger compartments to stop a suspect from getting their hands on a weapon or destroying evidence.


One of the most common exceptions to the warrant requirement is consent. Police often ask suspects if they can search their home or their vehicle. The subject of the search, wanting to avoid looking guilty, says yes. Because of this consent, the police do not need a warrant.

However, defendants can sometimes later challenge the legitimacy of their consent. The officer has the burden of proof to show that the person approved of the search.


From the beginning, those who think their rights were violated can use that when they craft a criminal defense. Contacting qualified people who know what can and cannot be done as part of an investigation is a strategy to try and achieve a positive result and avoid the long-term penalties.