CAN A POLICE OFFICER SEARCH A PERSON’S RESIDENCE WITHOUT A WARRANT IF THEY ARE ARRESTED INSIDE THE HOME?
In general, No. A police officer must obtain a warrant to search a person's residence. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, and it requires that law enforcement officers have probable cause and a warrant to search an individual or their property, unless an exception to the warrant requirement applies.
However, there are certain exceptions to the warrant requirement that may allow a police officer to search a person's residence without a warrant in certain circumstances. One exception is the "search incident to arrest" exception, which allows law enforcement officers to search an individual and the area within the individual's immediate control when making an arrest.
If a police officer arrests an individual inside their home, the officer may be allowed to search the area within the arrestee's immediate control, such as the room where the arrest took place, in order to protect the officer's safety and to prevent the destruction of evidence. However, the officer would not be allowed to search other areas of the home unless they have probable cause to do so.
It is important to note that the scope of a search incident to arrest is limited, and the officer is only allowed to search the area within the arrestee's immediate control. If the officer wants to search other areas of the home, they must obtain a warrant or establish that an exception to the warrant requirement applies.
This case answers the following question: Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969).
Can a police officer search a person’s residence without a warrant if they are arrested inside the home?
The issue in this case is whether the police officers exceeded the scope of search incident to lawful arrest by searching the entire house without a separate warrant. The scope of search incident to lawful arrest extends to the person and the area within his immediate control.
In this case, police officers arrived at the home of Chimel with a warrant for his arrest. Chimel’s wife answered the door and ushered the police officers into the house. The officers waited ten to fifteen minutes until Chimel arrived home from work. Upon arriving home, the officers handed Chimel the arrest warrant and asked to look around the house. Chimel refused, but he was told that on the basis of the lawful arrest, the officers would conduct a search anyways, even without being issued a search warrant. The officers then searched the entire house, accompanied by Chimel’s wife. The search lasted somewhere between forty-five and sixty minutes, and the officers seized a number of items, including coins, medals, and tokens. The lower court convicted Chimel and ruled that both the arrest and the search were lawful. The California Court of Appeals and the California Supreme Court affirmed the ruling.
The scope of search incident to lawful arrest extends to the person and the area within his immediate control. This scope was enacted primarily to protect police officers and ensure the integrity of any evidence. The scope of the person to be arrested and his immediate area is construed to mean the area from within which the person might gain possession of a weapon or destructible evidence. If police officers were given the ability to search a suspect’s home without a warrant simply because they arrested him in his house, it would encourage police officers to make all arrests in the home, in order to legally search the house for evidence without a warrant.
The majority of the analysis of this case was spent on explaining the rationale for overruling the established precedent that allowed for a broader search and seizure under a search incident to lawful arrest. The fourth amendment was established to protect citizens from unreasonable search and seizure.
The Supreme Court of the United States held that the search in this case went far beyond Chimel’s person and the area from within which he might have obtained either a weapon or something that could have been used as evidence against him. Therefore, there was no constitutional justification for exceeding the scope of the authorized search incident to lawful arrest. For this reason, the Court reversed the decision of the lower courts, holding that the scope of the search was unreasonable.