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When can North Dakota police officers perform a lawful search?

On Behalf of | Dec 14, 2023 | Criminal Defense

It is normal for people to become quite nervous during an interaction with law enforcement. People can become so anxious that they behave in abnormal ways or speak in a way that puts them at legal risk. Some people do their best to be as compliant as possible with the police officer’s requests. They think that by working with an officer, they can prove their innocence and quickly move on with their day.

Unfortunately, police officers do sometimes try to manipulate people into giving up their rights and making other mistakes that could have a serious negative impact on their future. For example, police officers may ask to look through someone’s car or home, and people may agree. However, if an officer asks for permission, they likely don’t have grounds to search without it, which is important for adults to understand as the consequences of a search can be significant.

When can an officer lawfully search private property in North Dakota?

When they have a warrant

The most formal means of legally searching private property requires that a police officer first go to the courts. A judge can sign a search warrant when they believe the situation justifies a search of private property. Even then, the warrant will indicate a specific location and scope for the search that police officers have to follow.

When they have probable cause

Police officers can search without notice or going to court first if they have reasonable and strong suspicion of criminal activity. They generally need to suspect a specific criminal act and have some explainable source for their suspicion. Smelling drugs in a car or house might give an officer probable cause. Encountering someone in a high-crime area typically would not.

When they obtain permission

Often, police officers do not have probable cause and are not in a position to obtain a warrant. Instead, they will try to trick people into agreeing to a search. People can most effectively protect themselves against inappropriate prosecution and police activity by knowing their rights and asserting them. Politely but firmly telling an officer that there is no consent for a search could be a choice that helps someone avoid criminal prosecution.

Learning more about what restricts certain police behavior in North Dakota may benefit those who encounter the police or end up facing criminal charges.