It can take a long time for police officers to gather enough evidence to charge someone with a serious criminal offense. Sometimes, police officers have to get creative with how they collect evidence.
Generally speaking, an officer needs to have a warrant or permission to search a property unless they suspect a crime currently in progress. However, officers will sometimes try to search in areas where they legally don’t have a right to do so.
Going through your garage because the side door isn’t locked, picking through your trash while the bin is still out on your back porch or searching in your yard could all lead to officers gathering what they think is evidence against you. Can they really just search your property without permission or a warrant?
Some of your outdoor spaces have the same protections as your home
You have the basic right to the expectation of privacy in your home. Your right to privacy is one of the reasons why officers can’t come barreling in and look through your stuff. That expectation of privacy applies to any part of your outdoor space that you treat as an extension of your home.
The legal term for these areas with an expectation of privacy is curtilage. Parts of your yard that you frequently use, porches and patios, your garage and your entrance ways are typically part of your cartilage. Any outdoor space that you treat like the inside of your home and that is not immediately visible to those still on public property has the expectation of privacy.
The Supreme Court has affirmed this expectation in recent rulings. If you learn about a police officer searching these areas without your permission or a warrant, you could potentially challenge the search or any evidence gathered.
Understanding your rights can help in your defense
If you don’t understand what the police can and cannot do without violating the law or your civil rights, it will be hard for you to stand up for yourself when dealing with the police investigation or pending criminal charges.
Learning more about your rights or going over the records that led up to your arrest can give you a better idea about what options you may have to defend yourself against pending criminal charges.