Warrantless Home Searches in Arizona: A Recap of the Recent Supreme Court Decision

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in the state of Arizona, you need to know your rights in order to protect yourself in court. Being charged with a crime is a serious matter that warrants the immediate attention of an experienced criminal defense attorney; do not hesitate to act if you suspect that foul play occurred during your arrest.

One of the most well-known rights for all individuals who are charged with a crime has to do with search and seizure. Even though search and seizure is articulated in the Constitution through the Bill of Rights, it is subject to interpretation and can be changed as a result of cases in court. That is certainly the case with a recent interpretation about search warrants from the Arizona Supreme Court.

A Primer on Fourth Amendment Rights

Through the Constitution, you have a right to be protected from searches and seizures deemed to be unreasonable. This means that with relatively few exceptions, authorities are not permitted to search you or your home without a warrant. Exceptions relate to situations where there are exigent circumstances are present, such as police concern over potential immediate evidence destruction or when the police already have probable cause to arrest a fleeing suspect. Police may also exercise the right to conduct a protective sweep in order to complete an arrest legally or when they believe that someone inside a home requires immediate assistance.

If you believe that your property has been searched illegally, you need to walk your Mesa criminal defense lawyer through the details of your arrest.

Supreme Court Limits Warrantless Searches

Although there are only a handful of situations where the police are authorized to conduct a search without a warrant, they can be subject to relatively broad interpretation. According to the Arizona Supreme Court, however, the circumstances do not give a large amount of leeway to authorities.

An example case involved police arriving on a property where neighbors had called an about individual’s “erratic behavior.” When the police arrived on scene, the individual admitted having several pounds of mercury inside the residence. Concerned paramedics, worried about contamination, contacted the Fire Department. Once the individual was taken to a hospital facility, the police officer and firefighter entered the property to collect more information about the situation.

Upon entering the home, the officer detected the smell of marijuana, leading him to the discovery of several such plants in the utility room. He then left the premises to obtain a search warrant. Although the trial court determined that exigent circumstances did exist, the Court of Appeals determined that the search was not justified.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged

If you believe that you were subject to an unreasonable search and seizure of evidence, you need to consult directly with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. This evidence could be inadmissible in court or call the charges into question entirely. It is critical that you discuss your defense with your attorney to learn more.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.