Even though police officers do not always have to obtain a warrant to conduct a search, they must still act within the law.
Anonymous tips are important tools for the police. These tips alert officers to possible criminal activity so they can conduct an investigation. However, there is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding anonymous tips, with the largest one being whether officers are allowed to conduct searches after receiving one. Although not every instance of a search requires a warrant, officers must still follow the law and not violate a person’s rights.
The Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution clearly states that individuals have the right to be free from searches and seizures unless an officer has obtained a search warrant. To obtain such a warrant, an officer must have reasonable cause that a person has engaged in criminal activity and that a search would provide valuable evidence for their case. Officers must also sign an affidavit before a search warrant is granted. Due to this right granted to all individuals, officers cannot typically conduct a search without a warrant, although there are some exceptions.
Exceptions to Warrantless Searches
There are some instances in which police officers are not required to obtain a search warrant. Suspected DUIs are one of these. An officer can search a person or their vehicle if they have reasonable cause to believe that a person is driving under the influence. However, an anonymous tip alone does not provide this. The officer would have to approach the vehicle and notice signs of an impaired driver before they conducted a search of either the person or the vehicle.
An officer may also receive an anonymous tip and detain a person based on what the informant said. In these situations, as well, officers can search a person but they must still have reasonable cause that the person has engaged in criminal activity.
What the Courts Will Consider After an Anonymous Tip
Generally speaking, evidence obtained without a search warrant is usually inadmissible in court. However, when an officer has searched someone without a warrant after receiving an anonymous tip, the court will take two factors into consideration. The first is whether the police had confirmed the information provided in the tip. The second is how reliable the anonymous tip was, as unreliable information is not enough to search someone without a warrant. These factors do not apply when officers have searched a home, as law enforcement always needs a warrant to search someone’s home, even if they received an anonymous tip.
Were You Unlawfully Searched? Our Oklahoma Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help
It is no wonder there are so many misunderstandings revolving around anonymous tips and lawful and unlawful searches. The issue is quite complex and largely relies on the facts of a specific case. If you believe that you have been unlawfully searched and are now facing charges as a result, call our Oklahoma City criminal defense lawyers at the Law Firm of Boettcher, Devinney, Ingle & Wicker. We know how to prove a search was unlawful to get evidence thrown out of court, which can give you the best chance of success with your case. Call us today at (405) 886-9660 to schedule a meeting with one of our knowledgeable attorneys and to learn more about how we can help.