Search and Seizure Laws by State
Searches and Seizures: Limitations of Police
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution ensures the right of every American “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” with the added assurance that “no Warrants shall issue” without probable cause. In other words, police searching you or your property without a warrant is not permitted, and a warrant can be issued if there is probable cause.
Probable cause is generally defined as a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed based upon evidence or sufficient suspicion. A police officer’s hunch is never grounds for probable cause. If a legal basis for probable cause cannot be established, the officer usually must obtain a warrant before proceeding with a search or seizure.
If no valid warrant is present, you have the right to respectfully deny a search or seizure of your person or premises. Only with your express consent can an officer proceed until a warrant is issued.
Probable Cause vs. Reasonable Suspicion
Probable cause shouldn’t be confused with reasonable suspicion. Probable cause may be grounds for a warrantless search or seizure, but reasonable suspicion is not. The line between reasonable suspicion and probable cause has been at the forefront of numerous Supreme Court cases, but the simplest distinction is:
- Reasonable suspicion exists when the likelihood of criminal wrongdoing would be apparent to a trained police officer.
- Probable cause exists when the likelihood of criminal wrongdoing would be apparent to any reasonable person.
When Is a Search Warrant Not Needed?
Since constitution is infinitely complex and subject to interpretation, there are a few notable exceptions to the search warrant rule. One is commonly known as the motor vehicle exception. Established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1925, the motor vehicle exception stipulates that an officer can search a vehicle without a warrant so long as there is probable cause that a crime has occurred or is occurring.
A warrantless search may also be executed under “exigent circumstances,” whereby an officer has probable cause and an urgent need to take action before a warrant can be issued. For instance, if an officer hears a victim crying for help from inside a private residence, he or she may enter on the grounds that the victim’s life would be endangered in the absence of immediate action.
An officer may also lawfully conduct what’s known as a “stop and frisk,” per the case of Terry v. Ohio. In order to conduct one of these stops, an officer must have reasonable suspicion but not probable cause. When such a stop occurs, an officer may perform a quick pat-down over a person’s clothes to verify that the suspect isn’t armed.
The Issuing of Search Warrants
A search warrant must be issued by a court, and it must be “supported by Oath or affirmation,” a solemn legal declaration of truth. The warrant must also be carried out within a designated time frame and according to designated guidelines, depending on the jurisdiction. Though the Fourth Amendment affords the same protections to all Americans, each state has its own statutes and procedures for upholding this essential tenet of the U.S. Constitution. Below is a breakdown of the law in every state.
Search and Seizure Laws for All 50 States
General Overview: Article iii, Section 5 of the Alabama Constitution reaffirms the federal Fourth Amendment, and Alabama Code - Section 15-5-2 asserts that a search warrant may be issued when property is suspected to be stolen, embezzled, used for the purpose of committing a felony, or intended as a means of committing a public offense.
Conditions of Probable Cause: Alabama Rule 4 references probable cause as defined in the case of Knight v. State, 346 So.2d 478, 481 (Ala.Crim.App.1977): “Probable cause exists where the facts and circumstances within the officer’s knowledge and of which he had reasonable trustworthy information are sufficient to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been or is being committed.”
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: If probable cause is determined, a law enforcement officer may arrest a suspect without a warrant.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: A search warrant must be executed within 10 days of being issued. Anyone who procures a search warrant without probable cause may be subject to a fine of up to $500 and imprisonment for up to 6 months.
General Overview: The Fourth Amendment is reiterated verbatim under Section 14 of the Alaska Declaration of Rights. AS 12.35.015 indicates that an officer may issue a warrant upon a person’s sworn oral testimony or sworn affidavit, so long as the judge determines probable cause.
Conditions of Probable Cause: Though Alaska has repealed AS12.35.030, which defined probable cause, the Alaska Bar Association defines it as “a reasonable ground to suspect that a person has committed or is committing a crime or that a place contains specific items connected with a crime.”
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: Anyone who executes a search warrant without probable cause is guilty of a misdemeanor under AS 12.35.060.
General Overview: Although the Arizona Constitution doesn’t reaffirm the Fourth Amendment verbatim, it does contain a complementary clause under Section 8 of its Declaration of Rights: “No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.” Search warrant law is further defined by Title 13. Possible reasons for issuing a warrant include suspected possession of stolen or embezzled property or suspected use of property for the purpose of criminal activity.
Conditions of Probable Cause: Arizona has no standardized definition of probable cause.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: If a person causes a search warrant to be executed without probable cause and with intent to cause harassment, he or she is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor.
General Overview: According to Section 15 of the Arkansas Constitution, a warrant can only be issued upon probable cause and requires a sworn oath describing what is to be searched and/or seized.
Conditions of Probable Cause: The Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure are careful to distinguish reasonable suspicion from probable cause. Reasonable suspicion is defined as “a suspicion based on facts or circumstances which of themselves do not give rise to the probable cause requisite to justify a lawful arrest, but which give rise to more than a bare suspicion.” Reasonable suspicion does not provide adequate grounds for a warrantless search or seizure.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: Rule 13.5 indicates that if documents are seized, the executing officer must make all reasonable efforts not to examine any aspects of the documents not covered by the warrant. An officer must execute a warrant within a reasonable time frame no more than 60 days after the warrant is issued.
General Overview: The Fourth Amendment is reaffirmed under Article I, Section 13 of the California Constitution. Penal Code Section 1523-1542.5 outlines the various reasons for which a search warrant may be issued, including for the investigation of stolen property or property used to commit a crime. California law also includes numerous search warrant allowances that are directly related to firearms. For example, a warrant may be issued to seize an unlawful firearm from the possession of someone subject to a restraining order.
Conditions of Probable Cause: Under California Penal Code Section 836, an officer may initiate a search or seizure without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed in the officer’s presence, or if there is a probable cause to believe that a felony has been committed (whether or not in the presence of the officer).
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: Anyone arrested without a warrant must be taken to a local magistrate “without unnecessary delay” so that a formal complaint may be filed. The officer may release the suspect if they determine that there were insufficient grounds for a criminal complaint or if the only crime was intoxication.
General Overview: The Colorado Constitution reaffirms and paraphrases the Fourth Amendment under Article II, Section 7. According to Colorado’s Code of Criminal Procedure, a search warrant may be issued to search and seize property that is stolen, embezzled, designed or intended for criminal offense, or kept in violation of a state statute. If the possession of an item (such as a weapon or narcotic) is illegal, it may be subject to a search warrant. A warrant must be issued by a judge.
Conditions of Probable Cause: The Code of Criminal Procedure repeatedly outlines two specific criteria for probable cause: First, that an offense has been committed, and second, that a particular suspect was responsible for the offense.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: A search warrant must be executed within 14 days after being issued. Police are legally required to take a full inventory of items seized and to file a return of the warrant with the judge, maintaining full transparency about items seized and the status of the warrant.
General Overview: The Fourth Amendment is reaffirmed under Article I, Section 7 of the Connecticut Constitution. Title 54 of the Connecticut Code further asserts that a search warrant requires a complaint on oath by “any state’s attorney or assistant state’s attorney or by any two credible persons.” The warrant must be established according to probable cause and designed to search or seize property that is stolen, embezzled, illegally possessed, or evidence of a criminal offense.
Conditions of Probable Cause: It is the responsibility of an overseeing judge or judge trial referee to determine that the grounds for probable cause have been satisfied.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: In 2005, the Connecticut Supreme Court determined it unlawful for a single occupant of a home to consent to a search without the consent of the other occupants (State v. Brunetti, 276 Conn. 40).
General Overview: Article I, Section 6 of the Delaware Constitution reaffirms the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, a search warrant may be issued by any Judge of the Superior Court, any judge of the Court of Common Pleas, or any justice of the peace.
Conditions of Probable Cause: Chapter 23 of Delaware’s Title 11 specifies that probable cause may pertain to a suspected felony or misdemeanor.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: According to Title 11, an unwarranted search may be executed “if the search is made for a person hotly pursued,” so long as probable cause is evident.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: A search warrant cannot be executed between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. unless it is deemed necessary by a judge. An officer who seizes property must present a copy of the warrant and a receipt for all seized property to the person from whom the property was seized.
District of Columbia
General Overview: Under the Code of the District of Columbia, Chapter 5, a judicial officer may issue a search warrant to a law enforcement officer or prosecutor to direct the search of premises, vehicles, physical objects or persons. Items may then be seized if they are deemed to be stolen, embezzled, illegally possessed, used for the purpose of committing a crime or required as evidence of a crime.
Conditions of Probable Cause: In 2012, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed that police require specific and “particularized” evidence of a crime in order to initiate a warrantless search under probable cause.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: In 2015, Mayor Muriel E. Browser proposed a plan to combat violent crime by expanding the rights of police officers to conduct warrantless searches of violent ex-convicts on parole. Due to intense scrutiny and debate, no such action has been implemented.
General Overview: Article I, Section 12 of the Florida Constitution expands upon the Fourth Amendment by specifically prohibiting unreasonable “interception of private communications by all means.” Florida search warrants are governed by Chapter 933 of the Florida Statutes. A search warrant may be issued by any judge upon receipt of an appropriate affidavit. Like many states, Florida justifies a search warrant for suspicion of stolen, embezzled or illegally possessed property, but the statutes also list intoxicating liquors and gambling paraphernalia.
Conditions of Probable Cause: When a search warrant is requested, it is at the judge’s discretion to determine whether or not the presented evidence satisfies the legal requirement for probable cause.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: Florida law permits officers “to make a warrantless arrest of any person who has committed a felony or misdemeanor…in the presence of the officer while the officer is engaged in the exercise of her or his federal law enforcement duties.” In addition, the officer is permitted to conduct a warrantless search related to the arrest.
General Overview: The Fourth Amendment clause is reiterated verbatim under Article I, Paragraph XIII of the Constitution of the State of Georgia. Under Georgia Code Section 17-5-21, a warrant may be obtained “upon the written complaint of any certified peace officer…under oath of affirmation.” As in all states, the warrant must be approved by an active judge of the state court who determines evidence of probable cause.
Conditions of Probable Cause: Under Section 17-5-21, an officer must have sufficient evidence “that a crime is being committed or has just been committed” in order to claim probable cause.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: In a criminal investigation, no search warrant can be issued against an attorney in possession of evidence unless there is probable cause to believe that evidence might be hidden or destroyed in the absence of a search.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: A search warrant must be executed within 10 days of being issued, and a duplicate copy must be presented to the individual from whom any property is seized. If an officer fails to issue the warrant within 10 days, it becomes void.
General Overview: Article I, Section 7 of the Hawaii State Constitution reaffirms the Fourth Amendment while also specifying protection against unreasonable “invasions of privacy.” According to Hawaii Statutes Section 803-33, a search warrant requires an affidavit which presents “sufficient facts in the opinion of the magistrate to justify the issuing of the warrant.”
Conditions of Probable Cause: According to the aforementioned statute, “Probable cause shown by affidavit can rest on hearsay, but some underlying circumstances should be set forth.”
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: Section 342P-4 explicitly states that a warrantless search can only be carried out in a single-family residence if the owner or occupier consents to the search.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: In 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that DUI suspects have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test, as requiring such a test constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure (State v. Won).
General Overview: The Fourth Amendment is reaffirmed under Article I, Section 17 of the Constitution of the State of Idaho. In Idaho, a search warrant must be authorized by a district judge or magistrate within the appropriate judicial district (Idaho Criminal Rule 41). A warrant may be issued even if the person or property sought is believed to be outside the state boundaries, but the approval of a warrant does not grant authority to execute the warrant outside the state.
Conditions of Probable Cause: According to Rule 41, “The finding of probable cause shall be based upon substantial evidence, which may be hearsay in whole or in part, provided there is a substantial basis, considering the totality of the circumstances, to believe probable cause exists.”
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: In 2014, the Idaho Supreme Court determined that police must obtain a warrant before drawing blood from DUI suspects.
General Overview: Section 16 of the Illinois Bill of Rights reaffirms the Fourth Amendment and expands upon it by addressing “searches, seizures, privacy and interceptions.” Sec. 108-3 of the Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that an Illinois judge may issue a search warrant “upon the written complaint of any person under oath or affirmation.” This sets Illinois apart from many states which require the complaint to be made by a law enforcement officer.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: If items intended for seizure are used in the ordinary course of business or are intended for dissemination of broadcast news, no warrant for their seizure can be issued unless there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the possessor is committing a criminal offense or that the items will be destroyed or removed from the state in the absence of a search warrant.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: In Illinois, a search warrant must be executed within 96 hours of being issued.
General Overview: The Fourth Amendment is reiterated under Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. According to Indiana Code – Section 35-33-5-1, a court may issue a warrant to search for unlawfully obtained property, illegally owned property, property intended for criminal activity, or property that constitutes evidence of a crime. A warrant may also be issued to seize a firearm believed to be in the possession of a dangerous person or to investigate possible child cruelty or child neglect.
Conditions of Probable Cause: The aforementioned section of the Indiana Code states that “a court may issue warrants only upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation,” thus echoing the language of the Fourth Amendment. No additional definitions or clarifications are provided.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: Indiana is unique when it comes to the execution of search warrants. Like many states, Indiana requires that a warrant must be executed within 10 days of being executed, but unlike many states, Indiana law expressly allows for the warrant to be executed any time of the day or night and any day of the week.
General Overview: Iowa reaffirms the Fourth Amendment under Article I, Section 8 of its state constitution. Section 808.3 of the Iowa Code states that a person can apply for the issuance of a search warrant by providing a sworn oath to a magistrate. The application must contain specific details about the person(s) and property that establish probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant.
Conditions of Probable Cause: Most states permit police to search a motor vehicle without a warrant if probable cause exists, but the Iowa Supreme Court handed down a ruling that limits the ability of police to conduct warrantless searches, even if probable cause is evident. Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: As of 2015, an officer is only permitted to conduct a warrantless search on a vehicle if the occupant was recently arrested, if the officer is in immediate danger, or if the occupant is visibly within reach of drugs, guns or other contraband.
General Overview: The Fourth Amendment is reaffirmed under Section 15 of the Kansas Bill of Rights. According to Statute 22-2502, “A search warrant shall be issued only upon the oral or written statement, including those conveyed or received by electronic communication, of any person under oath or affirmation which states facts sufficient to show probable cause that a crime has been or is being committed and which particularly describes a person, place or means of conveyance to be searched and things to be seized.”
Conditions of Probable Cause: In order to issue a warrant, a magistrate must agree that there exists probable cause to investigate criminal contraband, a kidnapping, the possession of a human fetus or corpse, or the location of an individual with an active arrest warrant.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: Parolees under post-release supervision must agree to be subject to search and seizure without prior notice, with or without a warrant.
General Overview: According to Section 10 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, “The people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers and possessions, from unreasonable search and seizure; and no warrant shall issue to search any place, or seize any person or thing, without describing them as nearly as may be, nor without probable cause supported by oath or affirmation.”
Conditions of Probable Cause: The Kentucky 2009 Search & Seizure Casebook proclaims that in order to demonstrate probable cause, an officer must present “reliable facts, information or circumstances” sufficient to conclude that a crime has been committed and that there is evidence of the crime on the premises to be searched.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: The Search and Seizure Casebook recognizes specific situations not protected by the Fourth Amendment. Specifically, an officer can proceed without a warrant if the investigation takes place on abandoned property, if an item is left in plain view, or if there is immediate evidence of a crime. An officer may also proceed with the consent of the suspect.
General Overview: According to Article 162 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure, a search warrant may be issued by a judge who determines probable cause based upon the sworn affidavit of a “credible person, reciting facts establishing the cause for issuance of the warrant.” The individual may provide written, oral or electronic testimony.
Conditions of Probable Cause: According to Revised Statute 14:54.4 of the 2011 Louisiana Laws, any property seizure requires an arrest with probable cause or a search with a valid search warrant.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: In the past, the Louisiana Supreme Court has upheld warrantless searches and seizures in which police were found to have reasonable suspicion but not probable cause. One such case is Louisiana v. Kirton (2011).
General Overview: The state of Maine prohibits unreasonable searches under Section 5 of its state constitution. The clause echoes the Fourth Amendment by affirming that “no warrant to search any place, or seize any person or thing, shall issue without special designation of the place to be searched, and the person or thing to be seized, nor without probable cause – supported by oath or affirmation.”
Conditions of Probable Cause: Probable cause and all associated procedures are defined under Title 17-A of the Maine Criminal Code. If any law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that a crime is actively being committed or has been committed, the officer can present a written summons to the individual that requires them to appear in court and testify. Failure to appear in court constitutes a Class E crime.
General Overview: Under Article 26 of Maryland’s Declaration of Rights, “…all warrants, without oath or affirmation, to search suspected places, or to seize any person or property, are grievous and oppressive; and all general warrants to search suspected places, or to apprehend suspected persons, without naming or describing the place, or the person in special, are illegal, and ought not to be granted.”
Conditions of Probable Cause: According to Section 1-203 of the Maryland Code of Criminal Procedure, a circuit court judge or District Court judge can issue a search warrant if there is probable cause that indicates a misdemeanor or felony occurring in any premises within the judge’s jurisdiction. Additionally, a warrant may be issued if there is probable cause to suggest that any premises contain items subject to seizure.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: A warrantless property search may be lawfully conducted when a suspect is under arrest.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: A search warrant must be executed within 15 days of being issued.
General Overview: According to Article XIV of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “Every subject has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches, and seizures…All warrants, therefore, are contrary to this right, if the cause or foundation of them be not previously supported by oath or affirmation.”
Conditions of Probable Cause: According to Massachusetts General Laws, Part IV, Title II, Chapter 276, Section 1, a court of justice authorized to issue warrants must—upon hearing sworn oath or declaration—feel satisfied that the presented evidence is sufficient for probable cause.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: Massachusetts decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in 2008. As a result, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that police officers can no longer rely on the smell of unburnt marijuana as probable cause for a vehicle search.
General Overview: According to the Constitution of Michigan of 1963, “The person, houses, papers and possessions of every person shall be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures. No warrant to search any place or to seize any person or things shall issue without describing them, nor without probable cause, supported by oath of affirmation."
Conditions of Probable Cause: Michigan’s search warrant legislation describes the need for “reasonable or probable cause” (see Act 189 of 1966). This does not mean that an officer can undertake a warrantless search on reasonable suspicion, as “reasonable cause” is a separate term synonymous with probable cause.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: Article 1, Section 11 of the Michigan Constitution further elaborates that the clause “shall not be construed to bar from evidence in any criminal proceeding any narcotic drug, firearm, bomb, explosive or any other dangerous weapon…outside the curtilage of any dwelling house.” In other words, illegally obtained items may be subject to warrantless police search and seizure outside the main dwelling where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.
General Overview: Section 10 of the Minnesota Bill of Rights repeats the federal Fourth Amendment verbatim, ensuring “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
Conditions of Probable Cause: The Research Department of the Minnesota House of Representatives recognizes probable cause as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court: “Probable cause exists where ‘the facts and circumstances within [the officer’s] knowledge, and of which they had reasonable trustworthy information, [are] sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been or is being committed.”
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: The House Research Department notes that a warrantless search may be issued:
- In an instance where life or safety is at risk
- As part of a lawful arrest
- As pursuant to the motor vehicle exception
- When evidence exists in plain view of the officer
- When consent is given to an officer
General Overview: Section 23 of the Mississippi Bill of Rights repeats the federal Fourth Amendment verbatim. Under Section 4.1 of the Mississippi Rules of Criminal Procedure, a judge may issue a search warrant “commanding the officer to search for and seize a person or property,” so long as probable cause exists.
Conditions of Probable Cause: Subsection C of the aforementioned section notes that probable cause may exist based on hearsay evidence, so long as there exists a “substantial basis for believing the evidence under the totality of the circumstances.” A judge must consider the informer’s credibility and the basis of the informer’s knowledge when deciding whether the standard for probable cause has been met.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: A search warrant must be executed within 10 days of being issued, and it must be executed during daylight hours unless a judge grants special permission for the warrant to be executed at any time.
General Overview: Section 15 of the Missouri Bill of Rights reiterates the federal Fourth Amendment but expands upon it to specifically include electronic communications. The clause ensures that everyone “shall be secure in their persons, papers, homes, effects, and electronic communications and data.”
Conditions of Probable Cause: Chapter 542 of the Missouri Revised Statutes details the procedure for issuing a search warrant based on probable cause. In accordance with the Fourth Amendment, an applicant must submit an oath or affirmation to be reviewed by a judge and deemed to meet the conditions of probable cause.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: The Missouri Legislature website includes a comprehensive list of cases involving warrantless searches and seizures. The majority of upheld examples are related to the motor vehicle exception and to searches conducted upon arrest. Additional case examples can be referenced in Search & Seizure Law in Missouri.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: A search warrant must be executed within 10 days of being issued, and subsequent searches or seizures may be conducted if continued probable cause exists. Night searches are permitted if daytime searches are not deemed practicable.
General Overview: Article II, Section 11 of the Constitution of Montana reaffirms the Fourth of Amendment but further specifies that the oath or affirmation must be submitted in writing whenever a search warrant is sought. Furthermore, Montana Code ANN Section 46-5-101 recognizes that a search may be conducted and evidence may be seized “by the authority of a search warrant” or “in accordance with judicially recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement.”
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: Section 46-5-103 outlines the conditions under which a search or seizure is considered legal. These include situations where:
- The individual has consented to the search
- The rights of the individual have not been infringed
- Evidence or persons seized are admissible as evidence for prosecution
General Overview: Search and seizure law is covered in depth under Article I-7 of the Nebraska State Constitution. The article begins with the Fourth Amendment and continues by expanding upon key term definitions, such as for “expectation of privacy,” “probable cause” and “waiver of right.” For instance, the article asserts that in order for a search or seizure to be determined as reasonable or unreasonable, it must be established whether the individual had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Conditions of Probable Cause: Section 4 of Article I-7 outlines specific examples that may warrant probable cause. For example, if an officer has reasonable suspicion of drug activity inside a vehicle coupled with a positive indication by a drug-sniffing dog, this may meet the conditions of probable cause. A suspect’s criminal history may also serve as a factor — though generally not the sole factor. Factors such as time of day and local reports of crime do not meet the criteria for probable cause.
General Overview: The Constitution of the State of Nevada repeats the Fourth Amendment verbatim under Section 18 of its Declaration of Rights. According to Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 179.035, a search warrant may be issued to seize any stolen or embezzled property, any property designed or intended for criminal offense, or property that can serve as evidence of a criminal offense.
Conditions of Probable Cause: Probable cause must exist in order for any search warrant to be granted or for any warrantless vehicle search to be carried out.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: The Nevada Supreme Court recognizes the instincts of a drug-sniffing dog as probable cause for a warrantless search. In the case of State v. Lloyd, defendant Jethro Ray Lloyd argued that evidence of his drug possession should be dismissed on account of his Fourth Amendment rights. A drug detection dog had alerted police to the narcotics in his car, but the search was carried out without a warrant. The district court sided with Lloyd, but the Nevada Supreme Court later reversed the ruling, arguing that the police had probable cause and that the vehicle was parked in a public place.
General Overview: According to Article 19 of the New Hampshire Bill of Rights, “Every subject hath a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches and seizures of his person, his houses, his papers, and all his possessions. Therefore, all warrants to search suspected places, or arrest a person for examination or trial in prosecutions for criminal matters, are contrary to this right, if the cause or foundation of them be not previously supported by oath or affirmation.”
Conditions of Probable Cause: According to the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Manual, probable cause exists when the officer “has knowledge and trustworthy information sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution and prudence in believing that the arrestee has committed an offense.”
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: The New Hampshire Supreme Court has observed that “if there is time to get a warrant, it is the only safe way to proceed.” In other words, a warrantless search may be conducted if there are exigent (emergency) circumstances.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: New Hampshire courts have traditionally been more protective of defendants’ rights than the U.S. Supreme Court. For example, the New Hampshire Supreme Court recognizes the use of a drug-sniffing dog as a form of search, and so an officer is not permitted to conduct a canine search without first establishing probable cause. This sets New Hampshire apart from states like Nevada, where dogs may be brought in for the purpose of determining probable cause.
General Overview: The New Jersey State Constitution reiterates the Fourth Amendment clause verbatim under Article I, Section 7. A search warrant can be issued by any judge with jurisdiction in the municipality where the property is located, and the applicant of the warrant must appear in person before the judge and provide sworn testimony ( Rule 3:5).
Conditions of Probable Cause: Although medical marijuana is legal in New Jersey, a police officer still may consider the smell of marijuana as probable cause for an automobile search.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: In 2009, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that a warrantless car search requires both probable cause and proof of exigent circumstances (State v. Pena Flores). This rule granted motorists greater protection than is found in most states, but the standard was overturned in 2015, when the same court determined it to be “unworkable.” Now, an officer requires only probable cause in order to begin a warrantless vehicle search.
General Overview: Section 10 of the New Mexico Bill of Rights paraphrases the Fourth Amendment and reaffirms the rights of all people to be secure from the threat of unreasonable searches and seizures. Search warrants must be issued by judges independent of law enforcement officers.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: A warrantless search may be conducted on private property if there exists probable cause and emergency circumstances if the search might protect the officer or another person from immediate harm. In addition, police may perform a warrantless “inventory search” of items collected during an arrest so long as the search is reasonable and made pursuant to police regulations.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: New Mexico provides greater Fourth Amendment protections to its citizens than many states. For example, as confirmed in State v. Gutierrez, the New Mexico Supreme Court supports the suppression of improperly seized evidence even if it’s collected under the good-faith exception. In other words, all improperly obtained evidence is inadmissible even if the officer was executing a search warrant and believed that his or her actions were carried out within the confines of the law.
General Overview: The Constitution of the State of New York, Article I, Section 12 reaffirms the Fourth Amendment clause and then expands upon it with the following: “The right of the people to be secure against unreasonable interception of telephone and telegraph communications shall not be violated, and ex parte orders or warrants shall issue only upon oath or affirmation that there is reasonable ground to believe that evidence of crime may be thus obtained, and identifying the particular means of communication, and particularly describing the person or persons whose communications are to be intercepted and the purpose thereof.”
Conditions of Probable Cause: New York’s search warrant manual reaffirms the definition of probable cause as described in People v. Bigelow: “reasonable doubt, but merely information sufficient to support a reasonable belief that ... evidence of a crime may be found in a certain place.”
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: New York Criminal Procedure Law Section 220 grants peace officers “the power to carry out warrantless searches whenever such searches are constitutionally permissible and acting pursuant to their special duties.” In other words, warrantless searches may be carried out as long as they don’t violate the Fourth Amendment (such as in the case of the motor vehicle exception).
General Overview: The North Carolina State Constitution addresses the issue under Section 20 of its Declaration of Rights. According to the clause, “General warrants, whereby any officer or other person may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of the act committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are dangerous to liberty and shall not be granted.”
Conditions of Probable Cause: Under Section 15A-242 of the North Carolina Statutes, an item may be subject to seizure if there is probable cause to believe that it is stolen, embezzled, unlawfully possessed contraband or evidence of a crime.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: Improperly obtained evidence may be inadmissible in a criminal trial but still admissible in a probation violation hearing (State v. Lombardo).
General Overview: The Fourth Amendment is reiterated verbatim in Article I, Section 8 of North Dakota’s state constitution. Rule 41 of the North Dakota Rules of Criminal Procedure further lays out the procedure for issuing and executing a search warrant. A search warrant may be issued to collect:
- Property used to commit a crime
- Property that serves as evidence of a crime
- Anyone for whom there exists probable cause for arrest
- Anyone being unlawfully restrained
Conditions of Probable Cause: State v. Otto affirmed that probable cause for a warrantless vehicle search exists when “certain identifiable objects are probably connected with criminal activity and are likely to be found in that automobile.” For other types of property searches, a magistrate must determine that there are sufficient grounds for probable cause and issue an appropriate search warrant.
General Overview: The Fourth Amendment is repeated and reaffirmed under Section 14 of the Ohio Bill of Rights. Chapter 2933.22 of the Ohio Revised Code further proclaims that “warrant of search to conduct an inspection of property shall issue only upon probable cause to believe that conditions exist upon such property which are or may become hazardous to the public health, safety, or welfare.”
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: A suspect may consent to an unwarranted search, but that doesn’t give law enforcement the right to do as they please. For example, in the case of Ohio v. White, an officer ruled in favor of Megan White, a defendant who had allowed police to search her car. Although she consented to the search, and police did find drugs and paraphernalia, the search was deemed unconstitutional because police conducted the search without reasonable suspicion and failed to inform the suspect that she could decline an automobile search.
General Overview: Section II-30 of the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma reaffirms and paraphrases the Fourth Amendment. In addition, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections maintains a detailed list of official Search and Seizure Standards, which includes specific guidelines for reasonable searches and seizures. For example, searches of any person are to be conducted by an agent who is the same gender as the suspect, and property searches are to be conducted in a manner so as not to cause any damage.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: Drug-sniffing dogs may be used to detect illegal contraband on a person or inside a vehicle without prior probable cause. If one of these dogs alerts the officer to the presence of illegal contraband, the officer may conduct a search based on probable cause.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: In some cases, a parolee may have to consent to random, unwarranted searches as a condition of parole.
General Overview: Article I, Section 9 of the Oregon Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Oregon Department of Justice also publishes an annual Search and Seizure Manual that outlines the laws and guidelines surrounding these procedures. Oregon courts have defined a search as any intrusion upon personal property and have defined a seizure as any intentional interruption of an individual’s ownership interests on the part of law enforcement.
Conditions of Probable Cause: Section 131.005 of the Oregon Revised Statutes defines probable cause as “a substantial objective basis for believing that more likely than not an offense has been committed and a person to be arrested has committed it.”
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: Section 133.565 stipulates that a search warrant must typically be executed between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. within 5 days of being issued.
General Overview: Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania paraphrases and reaffirms the Fourth Amendment, protecting state citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. Additionally, 234 Pa. Code Rule 205 elaborates on how search warrants are to be obtained and executed. For example, a typical Pennsylvania search warrant must be executed within 48 hours of being issued and must be executed between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.
Conditions of Probable Cause: Though probable cause alone is sufficient to search a vehicle without a warrant, the same cannot be said for a residence search. In order to conduct a lawful residence search without a warrant, probable cause must be coupled with some form of emergency circumstances.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that police officers may conduct an unwarranted vehicle search if probable cause exists. Prior to this ruling, an officer could only demand an unwarranted vehicle search if illegal items were plainly visible.
General Overview: Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures is affirmed in Article I, Section 6 of the Rhode Island Constitution. The clause paraphrases the Fourth Amendment and further states that the complaint must be submitted in writing.
Conditions of Probable Cause: The Providence Police Department has observed that probable cause “must be based on objective facts that could justify the issuance of a warrant by a magistrate, and not merely on the subjective good faith of the police officers.” This is consistent with the definition of probable cause that is understood by other states and municipalities.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: The case of Duquette v. Godbout established a precedent whereby the state would allow warrantless property searches due to emergency circumstances.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: Rhode Island is one of the few states that prohibits the use of sobriety checkpoints to locate DUI suspects as these types of stops are considered unconstitutional according to the state’s search-and-seizure clause.
General Overview: The South Carolina Constitution reiterates the Fourth Amendment in Article I, Section 10. But while the Fourth Amendment proclaims that warrants must describe “the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized,” the South Carolina Constitution adds “and the information to be obtained.” This accounts for seizures beyond physical property.
Conditions of Probable Cause: Under Section 17-13-140 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, a search warrant may be issued by any magistrate, municipal judicial officer or judge who is satisfied that the conditions of probable cause have been met. The search can be carried out by any peace officer in the county.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: An officer may enter a residence or conduct a search without a warrant when there are emergency circumstances or a suspect is in hot pursuit.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: Any search warrants must be executed within 10 days of being issued.
General Overview: The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is paraphrased and reaffirmed under Article 6, Section 11 of the South Dakota Constitution. Chapter 23A-35-2 of the state’s Codified Laws further asserts that a search warrant may be issued by a magistrate in the county where the person or property is sought, and it may be requested by a law enforcement officer or prosecuting attorney.
Conditions of Probable Cause: The Supreme Court of South Dakota has defined probable cause as evidence “where the facts and circumstances within the ... officers' knowledge and of which they have reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient in themselves to warrant a belief by a [person] of reasonable caution that a suspect has committed or is committing an offense."
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: Under South Dakota’s implied consent law, suspects arrested for DUI may be required to submit a blood, urine or saliva test, assuming the arresting officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect is under the influence. The suspect has the right to refuse such a test if there are no exigent circumstances, but the refusal must be verbally declared. In the case of State v. Fierro, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of defendant Shauna Fierro after police compelled her to provide an unwarranted blood sample despite her objections.
General Overview: Unreasonable searches and seizures are prohibited under Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution of the State of Tennessee. Rule 41 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure grants authority to magistrates to issue search warrants so long as they have jurisdiction within the county where the warrant is to be executed. As in any state, the magistrate must determine that the information contained within the sworn oath or affirmation satisfies the conditions of probable cause.
Conditions of Probable Cause: Rule 41 indicates that a magistrate may base probable cause on hearsay evidence. Though hearsay evidence is insufficient for a conviction, it can be used to establish probable cause for a search.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: In Tennessee, a parolee may have to consent to unannounced warrantless searches as a condition of their parole (State v. Turner).
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: A search warrant must be executed within five days of being issued.
General Overview: The Fourth Amendment is paraphrased in Article I, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution. The laws governing searches and search warrants are further outlined in Chapter 18 of the state’s Code of Criminal Procedure.
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: Chapter 14 of the Code of Criminal Procedure notes that “a peace officer or any other person, may, without a warrant, arrest an offender when the offense is committed in his presence or within his view, if the offense is classed as a felony or as an offense against the public peace.” Though this clause refers specifically to arrests, the plain view doctrine is commonly applied to searches and seizures as well. Additionally, Article 18.0215 permits the police to search phones and other wireless communications if:
• The phone was reported stolen
• There exists a life-threatening situation
• The device is in the possession of a known fugitive
• The suspect consents to the search
General Overview: Article I, Section 14 of the Utah Constitution reaffirms the Fourth Amendment verbatim. Rule 251-710 of the Utah Administrative Code further expands on the issue and asserts that “search and seizure activities shall only be carried out by lawful means.”
Conditions of Probable Cause: Rule R251-710-2 defines probable cause as “sufficient knowledge of articulable facts or circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that another person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime or a violation of a legally enforceable policy or rule.”
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: Article 77-23-301 of the Utah Code permits warrantless searches of parolees at any time. Inmates eligible for parole are required to sign an agreement to this effect as a condition of their release.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: In the case of Utah v. Duran, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that an officer may not rely on the mere odor of marijuana as probable cause for a residence search.
General Overview: Chapter I, Article 11 of the Constitution of the State of Vermont asserts that “the people have a right to hold themselves, their houses, papers, and possessions, free from search or seizure; and therefore warrants, without oath or affirmation first made, affording sufficient foundation for them, and whereby by any officer or messenger may be commanded or required to search suspected places, or to seize any person or persons, his, her or their property, not particularly described, are contrary to that right, and ought not to be granted.”
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: In January 2016, a new bill was introduced that would allow police to search the cellphones of drivers suspected of using their phones while behind the wheel. H.527 is still pending.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: Title 13, Chapter 155 of the Vermont Statutes asserts that search warrants must be executed during daytime hours.
General Overview: Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia asserts that “general warrants, whereby an officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive, and ought not to be granted.”
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: Section 19.2-59 of the Code of Virginia asserts that “no officer of the law or any other personal shall search any place, thing or person, except by virtue of and under a search warrant issued by a proper officer.” Nevertheless, Virginia still recognizes well-established exceptions to the Fourth Amendment, including the motor vehicle exception and situations that involve both probable cause and emergency circumstances.
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: A search warrant must be executed within 15 days of being issued.
General Overview: The Washington State Constitution addresses the basic tenets of the Fourth Amendment, albeit less concretely. Article I, Section 7 forbids the “invasion of private home affairs or home,” and Chapter 10.79 of the Revised Code of Washington elaborates on the issuance of execution of search warrants.
Conditions of Probable Cause: Probable cause — or reasonable cause — is defined by the Washington Courts as “having more evidence for than against; a reasonable belief that a crime has or is being committed; the basis for all lawful searches, seizures, and arrests.”
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: In 2015, The Washington Supreme Court upheld a decades-old law that enables law enforcement to obtain a suspect’s bank records and other records without a search warrant, using what’s known as a “special inquiry judge” proceeding. Such a proceeding only requires a prosecutor to have a “reason to suspect” crime, which is a lesser standard that probable cause.
General Overview: The Fourth Amendment is reaffirmed in Article III, Section 6 of the West Virginia ConstitutionChapter 62, Article 1A of the West Virginia Code further asserts that “a search warrant…may be issued by a judge of a court having jurisdiction to try criminal cases in the county, or by a justice of the county, or by the mayor or judge of the police court of the municipality, wherein the property sought is located.”
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: Section 62-1A-10 of the West Virginia Code specifically acknowledges the motor vehicle exception. An officer is permitted to conduct a warrantless search if he or she “has probable cause or another lawful basis for the search.” Furthermore, the West Virginia Supreme Court has affirmed that “the odor of marijuana, without more, may provide requisite probable cause to support [a] warrantless search of a vehicle and baggage contained in that vehicle” (West Virginia v. Chapman).
Unique State Laws/Rights/Restrictions: Though West Virginia follows the common 10-day deadline for executing a search warrant, the state is unique in that the warrant can be executed during either day or night.
General Overview: Article I, Section 11 of the Wisconsin Constitution reaffirms the Fourth Amendment verbatim. Section 968.10 of the Wisconsin Statutes further outlines that a search or seizure may be permitted:
• In the event of an arrest
• With the consent of the suspect
• When a valid search warrant is present
• During questioning, if the officer reasonably suspects danger
• While a lawful arrest is being made
Conditions of Probable Cause: The Wisconsin legislature defines probable cause as “information that would lead a reasonable officer to believe that guilt is more than a possibility, which information can be based in part on hearsay” ( Section 968.07; State v. DiMaggio).
Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement: In February of 2016, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin expanded the rights of police to conduct warrantless searches of homes based on the community caretaker exception. This exception grants police the right to search premises without a warrant if they suspect that injured or endangered people may be present.
General Overview: The Fourth Amendment is reaffirmed under Article I, Section 4 of the Wyoming Constitution. Section 7-7-101 of the Wyoming Statutes further outlines that a search warrant may be issued by a district judge, district court commissioner, circuit judge or magistrate for the purpose of seizing property that is stolen, embezzled, designed or intended for criminal offense, possessed in violation of the law, or possible evidence of a crime.
Conditions of Probable Cause:The Supreme Court of Wyoming oversaw one of the nation’s most famous probable cause cases, Wyoming v. Houghton. In this case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that police were justified in searching a passenger’s purse during a vehicle’s search, given that the property is deemed an effect of the car. This federal decision overturned a previous decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and established a national precedent for vehicle searches.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.
Additional Criminal Defense Articles
- Criminal Law
- What To Do If You're Arrested
- Miranda Rights: The Who, What, Where, When and Why
- Initial Consultation With a Criminal Defense Attorney or a Public Defender
- Infraction, Misdemeanor or Felony: What is the Difference?
- Murder vs. Manslaughter
- Avoiding a Criminal Record
- Can Police Search a Car Without a Warrant?
- Expunging Criminal Records
- What to do if Police Use Excessive Force
- Sentencing Guidelines: Fair Sentences or a Denial of Trial by Jury?
- Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity
- Police Misconduct Leading to Wrongful Convictions
- How the False Testimony of Snitches Results in Wrongful Convictions
- Witness Misidentification
- Prosecutorial Misconduct Leading to Wrongful Convictions
- How Bad Lawyering Can Result in Wrongful Convictions
- Violating Probation
- What Happens When You Face Out of State Criminal Charges?
- Double Jeopardy
- What Is The National Sex Offender Registry?
- The Truth About Perjury
- Bail For Beginners
- When Does Discipline Become Abuse?
- Are Lie Detector Tests Admissible?
- Defense Strategies in Criminal Cases
- Probable Cause to Arrest Someone
- Resisting Arrest
- The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine
- What Is a Defense Attorney?
- Criminal Law Basics
- Your Fifth Amendment Right Against Self-Incrimination
- Criminal Statutes of Limitations: Time Limits for State Charges
- When Must The Police Read Me My Miranda Rights?
- What is a Plea Bargain?
- What is expungement?
- What is Assault?
- What are my rights when charged with a crime?
- What Is Bail?
- Does an Expunged Criminal Record Still Follow You?
- If I Am Arrested, Should I Hire An Attorney?
State Criminal Defense Articles
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota