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Why is a search warrant for your home so important?

Hollywood usually depicts suspects asking investigators if they have a search warrant before just letting officers enter their homes. Movies and television may have gotten this one right.

If you are like most North Carolina residents, then you probably don't fully understand why it's crucial for you not to allow law enforcement officials to enter your home without a valid search warrant. The information below could provide you with some valuable insight into why you shouldn't just consent to a search.

Your Constitutional rights

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees you the freedom from unlawful searches and seizures. What does that really mean? It means that law enforcement officials can't just come into your home to search it without putting your rights first. When evaluating whether a search complied with the law, the courts often look to determine whether you had an expectation of privacy in the search area. 

For example, if the area police want to search is inside your home, you have an expectation of privacy. If the search area is your front law and anyone walking by could see any evidence of criminal activity there, then it is not considered private. As is the case with most laws, there are times other than when you give away your rights by consenting to the search when law enforcement officials do not need a search warrant to enter.

Violations of your Constitutional rights

If it turns out that a court rules the search of your private space as a violation of your rights, then any evidence gathered during that search falls under the "exclusionary rule." This means that the items seized may not be presented in court as evidence against you. This rule reminds police officers that their first priority is to protect your Constitutional rights regardless of the circumstances.

In addition to excluding any evidence that falls under the exclusionary rule, the courts do not allow any additional evidence derived from the first, unlawful search to be admissible in court. The so-called "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine means to discourage officers from conducting illegal searches. It is important to remember, however, that while the courts want to protect your rights, they also recognize that not all searches are going to go as planned.

If an officer acts in good faith or has a legal reason for entering your home without a search warrant, the court may uphold the search and admit any evidence resulting from the search. Keep in mind that your actions also affect whether what would be an illegal search becomes legal. If you have any questions, it might be better to send police away until they return with a valid search warrant and you have the time to gain an understanding of your rights.

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