With a few exceptions, the police are not allowed to search your property without first obtaining a warrant. This is one of the most precious rights granted to us by the U.S. Constitution. The requirement of a search warrant is found in the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The Mississippi Constitution (yes, we have one), also prohibits warrantless searches. Mississippi Constitution, Article 3, Section 23, states:
The people shall be secure in their persons, houses, and possessions, from unreasonable seizure or search; and no warrant shall be issued without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, specially designating the place to be searched and the person or thing to be seized.
In many criminal cases, the police conduct searches (sometimes with a warrant, sometimes without). During these searches, the police will find contraband, such as narcotics. The police also frequently find evidence of other criminal activity. These searches usually lead to the arrest of the defendant. In many cases, the evidence obtained as a result of the search is the only evidence against the accused. If the police violated the Fourth Amendment when they conducted the search, the Government will not be allowed to use the evidence. Of course, no evidence = no case = charges dismissed.
Whenever I accept a criminal case where a search was conducted, one of the first things I do is investigate the circumstances of the search. And by “investigate,” I mean to go through it with a fine-tooth comb and pick it apart. Winning on the search issue is literally the keys to the jailhouse door.