Types of Searches During Bucks County Criminal Investigations

There many differences and similarities between the search of a person, a vehicle and a person’s home. The most protected areas of searches involve a person’s home and a person’s actual physical body. Below is information regarding your rights during each of these types of searches and how they are legally protected. If you believe your rights may have been violated, call and schedule a consultation with a Bucks County criminal lawyer today.

Vehicle Searches

The United States Supreme Court protects those interests more so than any interest in movable properties such an automobile. An automobile can easily be taken from one location to another. In many cases, police are allowed to search certain parts of automobiles because there are may be a threat that evidence may be lost, or person may simply drive away with items that might be connected to a crime.

When a person’s home is to be searched, an officer seeks a warrant from a magistrate in Pennsylvania, Bucks County or a Court of Common Pleas judge. Probable cause to search a home must be established; probable cause is the real reason why the officer suspects the home should be searched. The magistrate or judge then determines if that is enough to bypass all the constitutional protections a person has, and allow a search of a home.

Searches of a Person or Their Home

The search of a person’s body is protected in the same ways. However, when the search of a person’s body takes place on the street, an officer often asks for consent to do so for safety reasons, or they feel the person is acting in a manner that is consistent with committing a crime. That’s how an officer attempts to bypass the constitutional restrictions upon searching a person’s actual physical body.

When it comes to searching a person’s body and a person’s home, the United States Constitution makes it very difficult for police to do so without the requisite probable cause. However, when it comes to a vehicle stop or searching a vehicle, there is more leeway for the police to do a cursory check of an entire vehicle before they place an individual back in a position where the individual could move or destroy evidence, or hide a weapon and put the officers’ lives in jeopardy.

Refusing a Search in Bucks County

In Bucks County, as in the rest of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a person can refuse any cooperation with the police. Through counsel, it’s often advised that is the right way to proceed.

For example, if police come to a person’s home and ask to come into the house to talk about a certain crime which may or may not have occurred, the person’s interest should always be known. The exception is when the person called the police to the location and/or is the victim of a crime. If a person is accused of a crime, they should never allow police into their home without the requisite search warrant, which the police would only be able to obtain with probable cause.

Refusing a Stop on the Street

The same truth exists for the stop of an individual on the street. If a person is stopped on the street for no legitimate purpose, their constitutional rights become a factor regarding what was recovered from that stop. If police discover narcotics in a person’s pocket, or a firearm from a person’s backpack, that evidence can be withheld. Anything on the person can be suppressed and taken out of the case if the person says, “I do not wish to be searched,” and the police continue to do so anyway.
Regarding an automobile, there are certain exceptions recently passed to allow for the officers’ safety search of the vehicle. Vehicles are moveable items. When a person gets back behind the wheel of the car, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or highest court, found that puts a person in a position to threaten a police officer. It is possible that there is a gun under the seat, or there are weapons on the car. Therefore, it is much less restrictive to conduct a cursory search of the interior and reachable areas inside a vehicle when police plan to put the operator back in the vehicle. The courts allow that.

In summary, a person should always say no. Even then, the police may be allowed to search a vehicle. However, reasonable suspicion, which is a lower standard in probable cause, must still exist.