What are the legalities of a search if the police had no warrant but probable cause?

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What are the legalities of a search if the police had no warrant but probable cause?

Police had no warrant but had party sign paper for consent to search saying it would take up too much time to go and get a warrant. To save time for everyone it would be best if they cooperated and signed the consent to search. Can they break open a locked filing cabinet or any other locked cabinet when all they had to do was ask for key?

Asked on August 24, 2010 under Criminal Law, Oklahoma

Answers:

M.S., Member, Connecticut Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The general rule is that the fourth amendment to the united states constitution requires that the police have a warrant, based upon probable cause, in order to search or seize property.  However, there are several exceptions to the warrant requirement, most notably consent.  Therefore, in light of the fact that you admit that the police obtained a signed "consent to search" form, then it appears that this search was, in fact, illegal.  The destruction of property is a separate issue.  Theoretically, you may have an action for damages arising out of the destruction of your filing cabinet.  However, the cost of the damage (in the range of a few hundred dollars, at most) probably does not justify hiring an attorney for.  In the future, do not consent to any search.


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