When a police officer stops you in traffic or comes to your home, you have certain rights under Indiana law and federal law. Reviewing the federal and state search and seizure laws can help you protect these rights.
Explore the laws that govern search and seizure in Indiana and the United States.
If an officer stops you in traffic, he or she must witness a traffic violation and/or reasonably suspect that you have committed a crime. A traffic stop is legal if you have been driving recklessly or erratically, speeding, or running red lights or stop signs.
During the traffic stop, you can legally refuse to answer the officer’s questions. He or she must either place you under arrest or allow you to go free after a reasonable amount of time.
The officer can only search your vehicle with probable cause to do so. Examples of probable cause include:
- Evidence of drug activity detected by K9 dogs, who can legally search your car during the traffic stop
- Your own admission that you have committed a crime, such as stating that you drank alcohol before driving your car
- Signs of drug or alcohol use, such as odor, unusual behavior, and compromised coordination or speech
The officer can also search your car if you give consent. However, you are under no legal obligation to do so.
Search and seizure in the home
Law enforcement can only enter your home for emergency response, with a warrant or with your express consent. An arrest warrant, which allows the officer to arrest you, does not give him or her authority to search the entire home.
Whatever the reason for the officer entering the property, he or she cannot seize anything unless the item is in plain sight. For example, drug paraphernalia on the kitchen table is fair game. The officer cannot open drawers and cabinets.
If law enforcement gains evidence against you with illegal search and seizure, that evidence is not admissible in court.