Search and Seizure Laws by State

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution ensures the right of every American “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” with the added assurance that “no warrants shall issue” without probable cause. In other words, police cannot search you or your property without a warrant, and they must have probable cause to obtain a warrant.

Probable cause means a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed based on evidence or sufficient suspicion. A police officer’s hunch is never grounds for probable cause.

In most circumstances, if police do not show you a valid search warrant, you have the right to respectfully deny a search or seizure of your person or premises. Without a warrant, you have to give your consent to a search.

You can see search and seizure details for all 50 states below in detail below.

Probable Cause vs. Reasonable Suspicion

Probable cause shouldn’t be confused with reasonable suspicion. The line between reasonable suspicion and probable cause has been at the forefront of numerous Supreme Court cases, but the simplest distinction is:

  • Reasonable suspicion exists when the likelihood of criminal wrongdoing is apparent to a trained police officer
  • Probable cause exists when the likelihood of criminal wrongdoing is apparent to any reasonable person

When Is a Search Warrant Not Needed?

There are a few notable exceptions to the search warrant rule. One is commonly known as the motor vehicle exception. Established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1925, the motor vehicle exception stipulates that an officer can search a vehicle without a warrant so long as there is probable cause that a crime has occurred or is occurring.

Police can also execute a warrantless search under “exigent circumstances.” This means an officer has probable cause and an urgent need to take action before a warrant can be issued. For instance, if an officer hears a victim crying for help from inside a private residence, he or she may enter.

An officer may also lawfully conduct what’s known as a “stop and frisk,” per the case of Terry v. Ohio. In order to conduct one of these stops, an officer must have reasonable suspicion but not probable cause. When such a stop occurs, an officer may perform a quick pat-down over a person’s clothes to verify that the suspect isn’t armed.

The Issuing of Search Warrants

Courts must issue search warrants, and the police officer must swear under oath to its truthfulness.

Once the police determine there is enough evidence to establish probable cause, they compile that information into a written statement called an affidavit. An affidavit may consist of observations from the police, informants, or witnesses.

Police then provide a judge or magistrate with the affidavit. When considering issuing a warrant, judges consider the totality of circumstances, including the knowledge and reliability of the officer providing the affidavit.

If the judge agrees that the affidavit establishes probable cause, they will issue the warrant, allowing police to conduct their search. Judges may restrict aspects of the warrant as they see fit.

Can You Challenge the Validity of a Search Warrant?

Although the suspect is not present when the judge issues the warrant, the suspect or their criminal defense attorney may later challenge the warrant’s validity. If the reviewing judge rules that the warrant was improperly issued, evidence collected from the search may be suppressed, and prosecutors cannot use that evidence in their case.

What Can Officers Search or Seize?

In addition to justifying probable cause, a warrant needs to describe what the officers will search for and where the officers will search. Some jurisdictions require a warrant to specify a time frame that they will carry out the search warrant as well.

If the warrants lack sufficient detail or the officers search outside the limits of the warrant, a defense attorney could challenge the search as a Fourth Amendment violation.

Search and Seizure Laws by State

Though the Fourth Amendment affords the same protections to all Americans, each state has its own statutes and procedures for upholding it and issuing warrants. Below is a breakdown of the law in every state.

Alabama

General overview: Section 5 of the Alabama Constitution reaffirms the federal Fourth Amendment. Alabama Code § 15-5-2 permits search warrants for suspicion of stolen or embezzled property, the committing of a felony, or the committing of a public offense.

Conditions of probable cause: Alabama Rule 4 references probable cause as defined in the case of Knight v. State, 346 So.2d 478, 481 (Ala.Crim.App.1977): “Probable cause exists where the facts and circumstances within the officer’s knowledge and of which he had reasonable, trustworthy information are sufficient to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been or is being committed.”

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: A law enforcement officer may arrest a suspect without a warrant if they have probable cause.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: A search warrant must be executed within 10 days of being issued. Anyone who procures a search warrant without probable cause may be subject to a fine of up to $500 and imprisonment for up to 6 months.

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Alaska

General overview: The Fourth Amendment is reiterated verbatim under Section 14 of the Alaska Declaration of Rights. Alaska Statute 12.35.010 indicates that an officer of the court may issue a warrant so long as the judge determines probable cause. The warrant must specify the place to be searched and the thing(s) to be seized.

Conditions of probable cause: The Alaska Bar Association defines probable cause as “a reasonable ground to suspect that a person has committed or is committing a crime or that a place contains specific items connected with a crime.”

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: Anyone who executes a search warrant without probable cause is guilty of a misdemeanor under AS 12.35.060.

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Arizona

General overview: Although the Arizona Constitution doesn’t reaffirm the Fourth Amendment verbatim, it does contain two complementary clauses in its Declaration of Rights:

  • Section 4: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
  • Section 8: “No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.”

Conditions of probable cause: Arizona law does not explicitly define probable cause, but it does provide grounds for issuing a warrant to search and seize property for instances such as:

  • Stolen or embezzled property
  • Property used to commit a public offense
  • Property in the possession of a person with the intent to use it to commit a public offense
  • Property that is evidence to a public offense
  • Part of an authorized inspection program for public safety, health, or welfare
  • When the person to be searched is the subject of an outstanding arrest warrant

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: If a person causes a search warrant to be executed without probable cause and with intent to cause harassment, he or she is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor.

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Arkansas

General overview: According to the Arkansas Constitution Art. 2 § 15, a warrant can only be issued upon probable cause and requires a sworn oath describing what what officers intend to search and/or seize.

Conditions of probable cause: The Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure are careful to distinguish reasonable suspicion from probable cause. Reasonable suspicion does not provide adequate grounds for a warrantless search or seizure.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: Rule 13.5 indicates that if documents are seized, the executing officer must make all reasonable efforts not to examine any aspects of the documents not covered by the warrant. Additionally, an officer must execute a warrant no more than 60 days after the warrant is issued.

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California

General overview: Article I, Section 13 of the California Constitution reaffirms the Fourth Amendment. Penal Code Section 1523-1542.5 outlines the various reasons for issuing a search warrant, including for the investigation of stolen property or property used to commit a crime. California law also includes numerous search warrant allowances directly related to firearms. For example, a warrant may be issued to seize an unlawful firearm from the possession of someone subject to a restraining order.

Conditions of probable cause: Under California Penal Code Section 836, an officer may initiate a search or seizure without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed in the officer’s presence, or if there is a probable cause to believe that a felony has been committed (whether or not in the presence of the officer).

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: Anyone arrested without a warrant must be taken to a local magistrate “without unnecessary delay” to file a formal complaint. The officer may release the suspect if they determine that there were insufficient grounds for a criminal complaint or if the only crime was intoxication.

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Colorado

General overview: The Colorado Constitution reaffirms and paraphrases the Fourth Amendment under Article II, Section 7. According to Colorado’s Code of Criminal Procedure, a search warrant may be issued to search and seize property that is stolen, embezzled, designed, or intended for a criminal offense, or kept in violation of a state statute. If the possession of an item (such as a weapon or narcotic) is illegal, it may be subject to a search warrant. Only a judge can issue a warrant.

Conditions of probable cause: The Code of Criminal Procedure does not give its own explicit definition for probable cause, and case law relies on the Fourth Amendment.

An officer may stop a person who he or she reasonably suspects is committing, committed, or about to commit a crime, require the person to provide their name and address, and explain their actions. If the officer reasonably suspects this person is endangering their personal safety, the officer may conduct a pat-down search of the person to check for weapons without a warrant.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: Police must execute a search warrant within 14 days of receiving it. Police must take a full inventory of items seized and file a return of the warrant with the judge, maintaining full transparency about items seized and the status of the warrant.

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Connecticut

General overview: The Fourth Amendment is reaffirmed under Article I, Section 7, of the Connecticut Constitution. The warrant must be established according to probable cause and designed to search or seize property that is stolen, embezzled, illegally possessed, or evidence of a criminal offense.

Conditions of probable cause: It is the responsibility of an overseeing judge or judge trial referee to determine that the grounds for probable cause have been satisfied.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: In 2005, the Connecticut Supreme Court determined that it is unlawful for a single occupant of a home to consent to a search without the consent of the other occupants (State v. Brunetti, 276 Conn. 40).

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Delaware

General overview: Article I, Section 6of the Delaware Constitution reaffirms the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, any judge or justice of the peace may issue a search warrant.

Conditions of probable cause: Chapter 23 of Delaware’s Title 11 specifies that probable cause may pertain to a suspected felony or misdemeanor.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: According to Title 11, an unwarranted search can occur with probable cause if the person is “hotly pursued.”

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: Police cannot execute a search warrant between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. unless a judge rules it is necessary. An officer who seizes property must present a copy of the warrant and a receipt for all seized property to the person they are seizing it from.

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District of Columbia

General overview: Under the Code of the District of Columbia, Chapter 5, a judicial officer may issue a search warrant to a police officer or prosecutor to search premises, vehicles, physical objects, or persons. Items may then be seized if they are deemed to be stolen, embezzled, illegally possessed, used for the purpose of committing a crime, or required as evidence of a crime.

Conditions of probable cause: In 2012, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled that police require specific and “particularized” evidence of a crime to initiate a warrantless search under probable cause.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: Any currency or money seized in a search must be entered into an interest-bearing escrow account pending the completion of legal proceedings.

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Florida

General overview: Article I, Section 12 of the Florida Constitution expands upon the Fourth Amendment by specifically prohibiting unreasonable “interception of private communications by all means.” Florida search warrants are governed by Chapter 933 of the Florida Statutes. Like many states, Florida justifies a search warrant for suspicion of stolen, embezzled, or illegally possessed property, but the statutes also list alcohol and gambling paraphernalia.

Conditions of probable cause: It is at the judge’s discretion to determine whether the presented evidence satisfies the legal requirement for probable cause.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: Florida law permits officers to make a warrantless arrest when the offense happens in the officer’s presence. In addition, the officer can conduct a warrantless search related to the arrest.

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Georgia

General overview: The Fourth Amendment clause is reiterated verbatim under Article I, Paragraph XIII, of the Georgia Constitution. As in all states, an active judge of the state court must approve the warrant.

Conditions of probable cause: Under Section 17-5-21, an officer must have sufficient evidence of a crime to claim probable cause.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: In a criminal investigation, an attorney who is in possession of evidence cannot be the subject of a search warrant unless there is probable cause to believe the attorney may hide or destroy that evidence.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: If an officer fails to execute a warrant within 10 days, it becomes void. Police must present a duplicate copy to the individual in question.

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Hawaii

General overview: Article I, Section 7 of the Hawaii State Constitution reaffirms the Fourth Amendment while also specifying protections against unreasonable “invasions of privacy.” According to Hawaii Statutes Section 803-33, a search warrant requires an affidavit that presents enough facts for a judge to justify issuing the warrant.

Conditions of probable cause: State law allows hearsay to be grounds for probable cause, but police must meet certain conditions in those instances.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: Section 342P-4 explicitly states that a warrantless search can only be carried out in a single-family residence if the owner or occupier consents to the search.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: In 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that DUI suspects have the right to refuse a Breathalyzer test because requiring such a test is an unreasonable search and seizure (State v. Won).

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Idaho

General overview: The Fourth Amendment is reaffirmed under Article I, Section 17 of the Idaho Constitution. In Idaho, a search warrant must be authorized by a district judge or magistrate within the appropriate judicial district (Idaho Criminal Rule 41). A judge can issue a warrant even if the person or property is outside the state boundaries, but the approval of a warrant does not grant authority to execute the warrant outside the state.

Conditions of probable cause: According to Rule 41, probable cause requires substantial evidence, which can include hearsay, “provided there is a substantial basis, considering the totality of the circumstances.”

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: In 2014, the Idaho Supreme Court determined that police must obtain a warrant before drawing blood from DUI suspects.

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Illinois

General overview: Section 16 of the Illinois Bill of Rights reaffirms the Fourth Amendment and expands upon it by addressing searches, seizures, privacy, and interceptions. Sec. 108-3 of the Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure sets Illinois apart from many states which require the complaint to be made by a law enforcement officer. Instead, Illinois allows “any person under oath or affirmation” to file a written complaint seeking a search warrant.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: If items intended for seizure are used in the ordinary course of business or are intended for the broadcasting of news, judges cannot issue a warrant for those items’ seizure. The only exception is if evidence suggests someone will destroy or hide the evidence.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: In Illinois, law enforcement must execute a search warrant within 96 hours of being issued.

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Indiana

General overview: The Fourth Amendment is reiterated under Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. According to Indiana Code – Section 35-33-5-1, a court may issue a warrant to search for unlawfully obtained property, illegally owned property, property intended for criminal activity, or property that is evidence of a crime. Warrants can also be used to seize firearms from “dangerous” people or investigate possible child cruelty or child neglect.

Conditions of probable cause: A court can only issue warrants with probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, thus echoing the language of the Fourth Amendment.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: Indiana is unique when it comes to the execution of search warrants. Like many states, Indiana requires that a warrant must be executed within 10 days. Indiana law, however, expressly allows law enforcement to execute a warrant at any time of the day or night.

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Iowa

General overview: Iowa reaffirms the Fourth Amendment under Article I, Section 8 of its state constitution. Section 808.3 of the Iowa Code states that a person can apply for the issuance of a search warrant by providing a sworn oath to a magistrate. The application must contain specific details about the person(s) and property that establish probable cause.

Conditions of probable cause: Most states permit police to search a motor vehicle without a warrant if probable cause exists, but an Iowa Supreme Court ruling limits the ability of police to conduct warrantless searches, even if probable cause is evident.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: As of 2015, an officer can only conduct a warrantless search on a vehicle if the occupant was recently arrested, if the officer is in immediate danger, or if the occupant is visibly within reach of drugs, guns, or other contraband.

Additionally, an officer may seize deadly weapons if they have probable cause of a domestic violence incident and the weapon is at the scene. The officer must have a reasonable belief that the weapon poses further risk to the victim.

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Kansas

General overview: The Fourth Amendment is reaffirmed under Section 15 of the Kansas Bill of Rights. According to Statute 22-2502, a search warrant requires an oral or written statement by any person under oath that establishes probable cause that a crime has been or is being committed. It must describe the person, place, or vehicle to search and things to seize.

Conditions of probable cause: In order to issue a warrant, a magistrate must agree that there exists probable cause to investigate criminal contraband, a kidnapping, the possession of a human fetus or corpse, or the location of an individual with an active arrest warrant.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: Parolees under post-release supervision must agree to searches and seizures without prior notice, with or without a warrant.

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Kentucky

General overview: According to Section 10 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky: “The people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and possessions, from unreasonable search and seizure; and no warrant shall issue to search any place, or seize any person or thing, without describing them as nearly as may be, nor without probable cause supported by oath or affirmation.”

Conditions of probable cause: According to the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training’s Search and Seizure Casebook of 2018, in order to demonstrate probable cause, an officer must present “reliable facts, information, or circumstances” to conclude that a crime has been committed and that the premises contains evidence.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: The Search and Seizure Casebook recognizes specific situations not protected by the Fourth Amendment. Specifically, an officer can proceed without a warrant if the investigation takes place on abandoned property, if an item is in plain view, or if there is immediate evidence of a crime. An officer may also proceed with the suspect’s consent.

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Louisiana

General overview: According to Article 162 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure, a judge can issue a search warrant after determining probable cause based upon the sworn affidavit of a “credible person.” The individual can provide written, oral, or electronic testimony.

Conditions of probable cause: According to Revised Statute 14:54.4, any property seizure requires an arrest with probable cause or a search with a valid search warrant.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: The Louisiana Supreme Court has upheld warrantless searches and seizures in which police had reasonable suspicion but not probable cause. One such case is Louisiana v. Kirton (2011).

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Maine

General overview: The state of Maine prohibits unreasonable searches under Section 5 of its state constitution. The clause echoes the Fourth Amendment by affirming that “no warrant to search any place or seize any person or thing, shall issue without special designation of the place to be searched, and the person or thing to be seized, nor without probable cause — supported by oath or affirmation.”

Conditions of probable cause: Probable cause and all associated procedures are defined under Title 17-A of the Maine Criminal Code. If any law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that a crime is actively being committed or has been committed, the officer can present a written summons to the individual that requires them to appear in court and testify. Failure to appear in court is a Class E crime.

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Maryland

General overview: Under Article 26 of Maryland’s Declaration of Rights, any warrant not supported by oath or affirmation of the facts, “are grievous and oppressive.” It further describes any warrant that doesn’t describe the person or place as “illegal, and ought not to be granted.”

Conditions of probable cause: According to Section 1-203 of the Maryland Code of Criminal Procedure, a circuit court judge or district court judge can issue a search warrant if there is probable cause that indicates a misdemeanor or felony occurring in any premises within the judge’s jurisdiction.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: A warrantless property search can occur when a suspect is under arrest.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: A search warrant must be executed within 15 days of being issued. Recently, Maryland’s highest court determined a police officer merely smelling the odor of marijuana does not constitute probable cause to believe a person possesses a criminal amount of it.

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Massachusetts

General overview: According to Article XIV of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: “Every subject has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches and seizures” All warrants must be “supported by oath or affirmation.”

Conditions of probable cause: According to Massachusetts General Laws, Part IV, Title II, Chapter 276, Section 1, a court of justice authorized to issue warrants must — upon hearing sworn oath or declaration — feel satisfied that the presented evidence is sufficient for probable cause.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: Massachusetts decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in 2008. As a result, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled that police officers can no longer rely on the smell of unburnt marijuana as probable cause for a vehicle search.

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Michigan

General overview: According to the Constitution of Michigan, warrants must describe the people or places to be searched and must be supported by probable cause and by oath or affirmation.

Conditions of probable cause: Michigan’s search warrant legislation describes the need for “reasonable or probable cause” (see Act 189 of 1966). This does not mean that an officer can undertake a warrantless search on reasonable suspicion, as “reasonable cause” is a separate term synonymous with probable cause.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: Article 1, Section 11 of the Michigan Constitution further elaborates that illegally obtained items may be subject to warrantless police search and seizure outside the main dwelling where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

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Minnesota

General overview: Section 10 of the Minnesota Bill of Rights repeats the federal Fourth Amendment verbatim.

Conditions of probable cause: The Research Department of the Minnesota House of Representatives recognizes probable cause as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court: “Probable cause exists where ‘the facts and circumstances within [the officer’s] knowledge, and of which they had reasonable trustworthy information, [are] sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been or is being committed.”

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: The House Research Department notes that a warrantless search may occur:

  • In an instance where life or safety is at risk
  • As part of a lawful arrest
  • As pursuant to the motor vehicle exception
  • When evidence exists in plain view of the officer
  • When the officer receives consent

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Mississippi

General overview: Section 23 of the Mississippi Bill of Rights repeats the federal Fourth Amendment verbatim. Under Section 4.1 of the Mississippi Rules of Criminal Procedure, a judge may issue a search warrant “commanding the officer to search for and seize a person or property,” so long as probable cause exists.

Conditions of probable cause: Subsection C of Section 4.1 notes that probable cause may exist based on hearsay evidence, so long as there exists a “substantial basis for believing the evidence under the totality of the circumstances.” A judge must consider the informer’s credibility and the basis of the informer’s knowledge if that information establishes probable cause.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: A search warrant must be executed within 10 days, and that execution must occur during daylight hours unless a judge grants special permission.

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Missouri

General overview: Section 15 of the Missouri Bill of Rights reiterates the federal Fourth Amendment but expands upon it to specifically include electronic communications. The clause ensures that everyone “shall be secure in their persons, papers, homes, effects, and electronic communications and data.”

Conditions of probable cause: Chapter 542 of the Missouri Revised Statutes details the procedure for issuing a search warrant based on probable cause. In accordance with the Fourth Amendment, an applicant must submit an oath or affirmation to a judge, who will determine if probable cause exists.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: The Missouri Legislature website includes a comprehensive list of cases involving warrantless searches and seizures. The majority of upheld examples are related to the motor vehicle exception and to searches conducted upon arrest.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: Police must execute a search warrant within 10 days, and they can conduct additional searches or seizures if continued probable cause still exists. Night searches can occur if daytime searches are practicable.

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Montana

General overview: Article II, Section 11, of the Montana Constitution reaffirms the Fourth Amendment but further specifies that the oath or affirmation must be in writing. Furthermore, Montana Code ANN Section 46-5-101 recognizes that a search and seizure may happen “by the authority of a search warrant” or “in accordance with judicially recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement.”

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: Section 46-5-103 outlines the conditions under which a search or seizure is considered legal. These include situations where:

  • The individual consents to the search
  • The rights of the individual have not been infringed
  • Evidence or persons seized are admissible as evidence for prosecution

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Nebraska

General overview: Search and seizure law is covered in depth under Article I-7 of the Nebraska State Constitution. The article begins with the Fourth Amendment and continues by expanding upon key term definitions, such as “expectation of privacy,” “probable cause,” and “waiver of right.” For instance, the article asserts that for a search or seizure to be reasonable or unreasonable, it must be established whether the individual had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Conditions of probable cause: Section 4 of Article I-7 outlines specific examples that may warrant probable cause. For example, if an officer has reasonable suspicion of drug activity inside a vehicle coupled with a positive indication by a drug-sniffing dog, this may meet the conditions of probable cause. A suspect’s criminal history can also serve as a factor — though generally it is not the sole factor. Factors such as time of day and local reports of crime do not meet the criteria for probable cause.

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Nevada

General overview: The Constitution of the State of Nevada repeats the Fourth Amendment verbatim under Section 18 of its Declaration of Rights. According to Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 179.035, a search warrant allows the state to seize any stolen or embezzled property, property designed or intended for criminal offense, or property that can serve as evidence in a criminal case.

Conditions of probable cause: Probable cause must exist for any search warrant or for any warrantless vehicle search.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: The Nevada Supreme Court recognizes the instincts of a drug-sniffing dog as probable cause for a warrantless search. In the case of State v. Lloyd, defendant Jethro Ray Lloyd argued for the dismissal of drug possession evidence due to a Fourth Amendment violation. A drug detection dog alerted police to the narcotics in his car, but the search happened without a warrant. The Nevada Supreme Court found that the police had probable cause and that the vehicle was parked in a public place.

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New Hampshire

General overview: According to Article 19 of the New Hampshire Bill of Rights, “Every subject hath a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches and seizures of his person, his houses, his papers, and all his possessions.” It continues that all warrants must be upheld by oath or affirmation to be valid.

Conditions of probable cause: According to the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Manual, probable cause exists when the officer “has knowledge and trustworthy information sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution and prudence in believing that the arrestee has committed an offense.”

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: The New Hampshire Supreme Court has observed that “if there is time to get a warrant, it is the only safe way to proceed.” In other words, police can only conduct a warrantless search if there are exigent (emergency) circumstances.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: New Hampshire courts have traditionally been more protective of defendants’ rights than the U.S. Supreme Court. For example, the New Hampshire Supreme Court recognizes the use of a drug-sniffing dog as a form of search, and so an officer is not permitted to conduct a canine search without first establishing probable cause. This sets New Hampshire apart from states like Nevada, where police can use drug-sniffing dogs to determine probable cause.

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New Jersey

General overview: The New Jersey State Constitution reiterates the Fourth Amendment clause verbatim under Article I, Section 7. A search warrant can be issued by any judge with jurisdiction in the municipality where the property is located, and the applicant of the warrant must appear in person before the judge and provide sworn testimony.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: In 2009, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that a warrantless car search requires both probable cause and proof of exigent (emergency) circumstances (State v. Pena Flores). This ruling granted motorists greater protection than is found in most states, but the standard was overturned in 2015 when the same court determined it to be “unworkable.” Now, an officer requires only probable cause to begin a warrantless vehicle search.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: In 2019, New Jersey did away with the “plain smell” doctrine, doing away with the scent of marijuana serving as probable cause.

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New Mexico

General overview: Section 10 of the New Mexico Bill of Rights paraphrases the Fourth Amendment and reaffirms the rights of all people to be secure from the threat of unreasonable searches and seizures. Judges must issue search warrants.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: Law enforcement can conduct a warrantless search on private property if probable cause or emergency circumstances exist and if the search might protect the officer or another person from immediate harm. In addition, police may perform a warrantless “inventory search” of items collected during an arrest if the search is reasonable and follows police regulations.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: New Mexico provides greater Fourth Amendment protections to its citizens than many states. For example, all improperly obtained evidence is inadmissible, even if the officer was executing a search warrant and believed they were following the law.

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New York

General overview: The Constitution of the State of New York, Article I, Section 12, reaffirms and expands on the Fourth Amendment by protecting against the interception of “telephone and telgraph communications.”

Conditions of probable cause: New York’s search warrant manual reaffirms the definition of probable cause as described in People v. Bigelow.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: New York Criminal Procedure Law Section 220 grants police the authority to execute warrantless searches as long as they don’t violate the Fourth Amendment (such as in the case of the motor vehicle exception).

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North Carolina

General overview: The North Carolina State Constitution addresses the issue under Section 20 of its Declaration of Rights. According to the clause, any warrants that aren’t supported by evidence “are dangerous to liberty and shall not be granted.”

Conditions of probable cause: Under Section 15A-242 of the North Carolina Statutes, an item may be subject to seizure if there is probable cause to believe that it is stolen, embezzled, unlawfully possessed contraband, or evidence of a crime.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: Improperly obtained evidence may be inadmissible in a criminal trial, but it may still be admissible in a probation violation hearing (State v. Lombardo).

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North Dakota

General overview: The Fourth Amendment is reiterated verbatim in Article I, Section 8 of North Dakota’s state constitution. Rule 41 of the North Dakota Rules of Criminal Procedure further lays out the procedure for issuing and executing a search warrant. A search warrant may be issued to collect:

  • Contraband
  • Property used to commit a crime
  • Property that serves as evidence of a crime

Conditions of probable cause: According to State v. Otto, probable cause for a warrantless vehicle search exists when “certain identifiable objects are probably connected with criminal activity and are likely to be found in that automobile.” This gives police officers leeway in vehicle searches. For other types of property searches, a judge must determine that there are sufficient grounds for probable cause.

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Ohio

General overview: The Fourth Amendment is reaffirmed under Section 14 of the Ohio Bill of Rights. Chapter 2933.22 of the Ohio Revised Code further proclaims that probable cause means that conditions exist on the property “that may become hazardous to the public health, safety, or welfare.”

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: A suspect may consent to an unwarranted search, but that doesn’t give law enforcement the right to do as they please. For example, in the case of Ohio v. White, an officer ruled in favor of Megan White, a defendant who allowed police to search her car. Although she consented to the search, and police found drugs and paraphernalia, the search was deemed unconstitutional because police conducted the search without reasonable suspicion and failed to inform White that she could decline an automobile search.

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Oklahoma

General overview: Section II-30 of the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma reaffirms and paraphrases the Fourth Amendment. In addition, property searches are to be conducted in a manner so as not to cause any damage.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: Police can use drug-sniffing dogs to detect illegal contraband on a person or inside a vehicle without prior probable cause. If one of these dogs alerts the officer to the presence of illegal contraband, the officer may conduct a search based on probable cause.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: In some cases, a parolee may have to consent to random, unwarranted searches as a condition of parole.

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Oregon

General overview: Article I, Section 9 of the Oregon Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Oregon Department of Justice also publishes an annual search and seizure manual outlining the laws and guidelines surrounding these procedures.

Conditions of probable cause: Section 131.005 of the Oregon Revised Statutes defines probable cause as “a substantial objective basis for believing that more likely than not an offense has been committed and a person to be arrested has committed it.”

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: Section 133.565 stipulates that a search warrant must typically be executed between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. within five days of a judge granting it.

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Pennsylvania

General overview: Article 1, Section 8, the Pennsylvania Constitution paraphrases and reaffirms the Fourth Amendment, protecting state citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. Additionally, Pennsylvania law elaborates on how search warrants are to be obtained and executed. For example, a typical Pennsylvania search warrant must be executed within 48 hours of a judge issuing it, and police must execute it between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.

Conditions of probable cause: Probable cause alone is sufficient to search a vehicle without a warrant. To conduct a residence search without a warrant, however, probable cause must exist along with some form of emergency circumstances.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that police officers may conduct an unwarranted vehicle search if probable cause exists. Prior to this ruling, an officer could only demand an unwarranted vehicle search if illegal items were plainly visible.

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Rhode Island

General overview: Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures is affirmed in Article I, Section 6, of the Rhode Island Constitution. The clause paraphrases the Fourth Amendment and further states that the complaint must be submitted in writing.

Conditions of probable cause: The Providence Police Department has observed that probable cause “must be based on objective facts that could justify the issuance of a warrant by a magistrate, and not merely on the subjective good faith of the police officers.”

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: The case of Duquette v. Godbout established a precedent where the state would allow warrantless property searches due to emergency circumstances.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: Rhode Island is one of the few states that prohibits the use of sobriety checkpoints to locate DUI suspects, as these types of stops are considered unconstitutional according to the state’s search-and-seizure clause.

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South Carolina

General overview: The South Carolina Constitution reiterates the Fourth Amendment in Article I, Section 10. But while the Fourth Amendment proclaims that warrants must describe “the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized,” the South Carolina Constitution adds “and the information to be obtained.” This accounts for seizures beyond physical property.

Conditions of probable cause: Under Section 17-13-140 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, a search warrant may be issued by any magistrate, municipal judicial officer, or judge who is satisfied that the conditions of probable cause have been met. The search can be carried out by any peace officer in the county.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: An officer may enter a residence or conduct a search without a warrant when there are emergency circumstances or is in “hot pursuit” of a suspect.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: Any search warrants must be executed within 10 days of being issued.

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South Dakota

General overview: The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is paraphrased and reaffirmed under Article 6, Section 11 of the South Dakota Constitution. Chapter 23A-35-2 of the state’s codified laws further asserts that a search warrant may be issued by a magistrate in the county where the person or property is sought, and it may be requested by a law enforcement officer or prosecuting attorney.

Conditions of probable cause: The Supreme Court of South Dakota defines probable cause as evidence “where the facts and circumstances within the … officers’ knowledge and of which they have reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient in themselves to warrant a belief by a [person] of reasonable caution that a suspect has committed or is committing an offense.”

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: Under South Dakota’s implied consent law, suspects arrested for DUI must submit to a blood, urine, or saliva test, assuming the arresting officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect is under the influence. The suspect has the right to refuse such a test if there are no exigent circumstances, but the refusal must be verbally declared. In the case of State v. Fierro, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of defendant Shauna Fierro after police compelled her to provide an unwarranted blood sample despite her objections.

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Tennessee

General overview: Unreasonable searches and seizures are prohibited under Article I, Section 7, of the Tennessee Constitution. Rule 41 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure requires judges who issue search warrants to have jurisdiction within the county where the warrant will be executed. As in any state, the magistrate must determine that the information contained within the sworn oath or affirmation satisfies the conditions of probable cause.

Conditions of probable cause: Rule 41 indicates that a magistrate may base probable cause on hearsay evidence. Though hearsay evidence is insufficient for a conviction, it can be used to establish probable cause for a search.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: In Tennessee, a parolee may have to consent to unannounced warrantless searches as a condition of their parole (State v. Turner).

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: A search warrant must be executed within five days of being issued.

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Texas

General overview: The Fourth Amendment is paraphrased in Article I, Section 9, of the Texas Constitution. The laws governing searches and search warrants are further outlined in Chapter 18 of the state’s Code of Criminal Procedure.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: Chapter 14 of the Code of Criminal Procedure notes that “a peace officer or any other person, may, without a warrant, arrest an offender when the offense is committed in his presence or within his view, if the offense is classed as a felony or as an offense against the public peace.” Though this clause refers specifically to arrests, the plain view doctrine is commonly applied to searches and seizures as well. Additionally, Article 18.0215 permits the police to search phones and other wireless communications if:

  • The phone was reported stolen
  • There exists a life-threatening situation
  • The device is in the possession of a known fugitive
  • The suspect consents to the search

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Utah

General overview: Article I, Section 14, of the Utah Constitution reaffirms the Fourth Amendment verbatim. Rule 251-710 of the Utah Administrative Code further expands on the issue and asserts that “search and seizure activities shall only be carried out by lawful means.”

Conditions of probable cause: Rule R251-710-2 defines probable cause as “sufficient knowledge of articulable facts or circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that another person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime or a violation of a legally enforceable policy or rule.”

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: Article 77-23-301 of the Utah Code permits warrantless searches of parolees at any time. Inmates eligible for parole are required to sign an agreement to this effect as a condition of their release.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: In the case of Utah v. Duran, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that an officer may not rely on the mere odor of marijuana as probable cause for a residence search.

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Vermont

General overview: Chapter I, Article 11, of the Vermont Constitution asserts that “the people have a right to hold themselves, their houses, papers, and possessions, free from search or seizure” without a warrant supported by oath or affirmation and backed by evidence and probable cause.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: Vermont permits an officer to execute a good-faith search as long as they have probable cause.

However, the court in Zullo v. State limited this exception where an officer pulled over a vehicle or conducted a stop by mistake. The court determined allowing police officers to continue with such a search is an infringement on liberty and can lead to racial discrimination.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: Title 13, Chapter 155, of the Vermont Statutes requires search warrants to be executed during daytime hours.

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Virginia

General overview: Article I, Section 10, of the Virginia Constitution states that search warrants must include the person’s name, describe the offense, and be supported by evidence.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: Section 19.2-59 of the Code of Virginia asserts that no search shall take place without a warrant. Nevertheless, Virginia still recognizes well-established exceptions to the Fourth Amendment, including the motor vehicle exception and situations that involve both probable cause and emergency circumstances.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: A search warrant must be executed within 15 days of being issued.

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Washington

General overview: The Washington Constitution addresses the basic tenets of the Fourth Amendment, albeit less concretely. Article I, Section 7, forbids the “invasion of private home affairs or home,” and Chapter 10.79 of the Revised Code of Washington elaborates on the issuance and execution of search warrants.

Conditions of probable cause: Washington courts define probable cause — or reasonable cause — as “having more evidence for than against; a reasonable belief that a crime has or is being committed.”

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: In 2015, the Washington Supreme Court upheld a decades-old law that enables law enforcement to obtain a suspect’s bank records and other records without a search warrant, using what’s known as a “special inquiry judge” proceeding. Such a proceeding only requires a prosecutor to have a “reason to suspect” that a crime occurred, which is a lower standard than probable cause.

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West Virginia

General overview: The Fourth Amendment is reaffirmed in Article III, Section 6, of the West Virginia Constitution. The West Virginia Code further asserts that search warrants can be issued by “a judge of a court having jurisdiction to try criminal cases in the county, or by a justice of the county, or by the mayor or judge of the police court of the municipality, wherein the property sought is located.”

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: An officer is permitted to conduct a warrantless search if he or she “has probable cause or another lawful basis for the search.” Furthermore, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia v. Chapman that the odor of marijuana can provide the basis for probable cause to search a vehicle.

Unique state laws/rights/restrictions: West Virginia follows the common 10-day deadline for executing a search warrant, and warrants can be executed at any hour of the day.

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Wisconsin

General overview: Article I, Section 11, of the Wisconsin Constitution reaffirms the Fourth Amendment verbatim. Section 968.10 of the Wisconsin Statutes further outlines that a search or seizure may be permitted:

  • In the event of an arrest
  • With the consent of the suspect
  • When a valid search warrant is present
  • During questioning, if the officer reasonably suspects danger
  • While a lawful arrest is being made

Conditions of probable cause: Wisconsin law defines probable cause as “information that would lead a reasonable officer to believe that guilt is more than a possibility.” Hearsay can also provide a partial basis for probable cause.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement: In February 2016, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin expanded the rights of police to conduct warrantless searches of homes based on the community caretaker exception. This exception grants police the right to search premises without a warrant if they suspect that injured or endangered people are present.

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Wyoming

General overview: The Fourth Amendment is reaffirmed under Article I, Section 4, of the Wyoming Constitution. Section 7-7-101 of the Wyoming Statutes further outlines that a search warrant may be issued by a district judge, district court commissioner, circuit judge, or magistrate for seizing property that is stolen, embezzled, designed or intended for a criminal offense, possessed in violation of the law, or possible evidence of a crime.

Conditions of probable cause: Wyoming was the center of one of the nation’s most famous probable cause cases, Wyoming v. Houghton. In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police were justified in searching a passenger’s purse during a vehicle’s search. This federal decision overturned a previous decision by the Wyoming Supreme Court and established a national precedent for vehicle searches.

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