Criminal Suspect Search

Criminal suspect searches involve a search of a person, property, or their body by law enforcement officers. The police must have probable cause to do so.


Probable cause must come from specific facts and circumstances, not a police officer’s hunch or feeling. The law also has exceptions like search incident to arrest or in emergency situations.

Probable Cause

Probable cause is the legal standard that police must meet before they can perform a search, arrest someone or issue a warrant. It requires more proof than a hunch, but less than the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In order for an officer to have probable cause to search your person or property, they must observe something that leads them to believe that a crime has been committed. This is a different standard from “reasonable suspicion,” which is the standard that officers must meet in order to briefly detain and search someone for weapons.

A judge must agree that probable cause exists before police can search your house, vehicle or other places that do not require a warrant. The judge must also agree that you are a suspect in a criminal investigation before he or she can recommend that you be arrested.

If you have serious doubts about whether police had probable cause, contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. It is easier to challenge searches and arrests made without probable cause when the case is still fresh.


Once a person has been identified as a suspect, police can arrest them. This can happen when a prosecutor or grand jury authorizes the filing of charges, or it can result from an officer’s decision to make an arrest.

When officers arrest a criminal suspect, they will usually search them on the scene in order to ensure that they don’t have any weapons or drugs. If there’s an emergency, they may also search their immediate surroundings (such as a car) without a warrant.

They will typically check their databases to see if the suspect has outstanding warrants for other cases, as well. They will also give the person a physical and run background checks. They’ll probably be given jail clothing, and they will probably be searched again when they go into Gen Pop or whatever jail is where they’re being held. They’ll likely be searched again when they get to their arraignment or bond hearing, or even in court. A civil claim in civil court might result in the exclusion of certain evidence, but it won’t necessarily exclude evidence otherwise presented at a criminal trial.


Police search people and places as part of an investigation. They can do so without a warrant when they have reasonable suspicion that there is evidence of a crime, or in some cases as part of an administrative search such as vehicle checkpoints and roadblocks, factory inventory searches, detention of a traveler, cause of fire searches and other routine activities. They can also perform pat-downs and frisks to search for weapons. A protective sweep, when done in hot pursuit of a suspect who then enters a residence or building is allowed under the law as part of a search incident to arrest.

A search incident to arrest does not require a warrant and must be limited to the person being arrested, the immediate area around them (often called an arms span) and the items in their custody or control. However, if they are being transported to jail and the officer suggests they go home for their personal belongings they can be escorted back so that their home can be searched as well. This type of search is often performed when an officer suspects that a criminal may attempt to gain access to a weapon or destroy evidence during transport.


A seizure occurs when nerve cells in the brain send a rapid burst of electrical activity that disturbs normal nerve cell signaling. This disturbance can affect the way you think, feel and move. The abnormal signaling is sometimes the result of a head injury or stroke, or it may be caused by a disease that affects brain function such as meningitis or diabetes. It can also be triggered by some medications, including antidepressants and some illegal drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines, or by withdrawal from alcohol.

If you see someone having a seizure, try to keep them from falling and hurting themselves. Help them find a safe place to lie down, remove sharp objects and loosen their clothing especially around the neck. If they vomit, make sure the vomit doesn’t get into their lungs. Stay with them until the convulsions stop and they wake up.

People who have seizures can’t control their movements and they often have jerking movements of the arms and legs. They may have a sense of deja vu, experience a strange smell or taste and feel emotions that are hard to describe.

Miranda Rights

Often portrayed in television shows, movies and in real life, Miranda rights advise suspects of their Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination. The words: “You have the right to remain silent, and anything you say can and will be used against you in court.” The Miranda warnings were created in 1966 by the U.S. Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona.

Suspects must be read their Miranda rights if they are in custody or being interrogated. Custody is defined as formal arrest or deprivation of freedom. Police officers must also advise suspects that they can consult with an attorney and have that lawyer present during questioning.

There is one generally accepted exception to the Miranda rule: if an officer believes there is an immediate threat to public safety, they can question a suspect without first reading them their Miranda rights. However, the subject can invoke their rights at any point and if they indicate that they are exercising those rights, the police must stop questioning. Otherwise, the evidence may not be used at trial.