Know Your Rights: Wiretap Orders and Search/Seizure Authority


June 20, 2021


What are police officers allowed to do (or not allowed to do) when conducting a search? It is important to note that all police searches require warrants unless one of the exceptions to the warrant requirement applies (e.g., consent, exigent circumstances, plain view).

What they MAY do

A police officer may perform a search without a warrant if they have your consent to do so. Note, your consent must be voluntary. They are allowed to engage in a search if they have an adequate reason to believe that evidence of a crime will be found there (probable cause). Police will first prove this to the judge and then obtain a warrant.

What they may NOT do

A police officer may not search your vehicle or person unless there is a reasonable suspicion that it contains evidence of a crime. They are not allowed to “stop and frisk” you unless they have a reasonable suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity and that you may be armed and dangerous.

Can a police officer wiretap my phone conversations?

Police must first obtain a wiretap order/warrant before listening in on your phone conversations. In order to obtain this order, police must prove to a judge that they have probable cause to believe a crime is being committed and that the tapping of the phone lines is necessary to the investigation. A wiretap warrant is a special type of warrant. Unlike other investigations, wiretaps have an extra layer and require a specialized warrant. In that warrant application, the agency must convince the court that phone call interceptions are necessary and that all other forms of information gathering have failed to provide law enforcement the information they need. The process law enforcement must show the court is commonly known as “exhaustion.”

The legal system can be incredibly complex and difficult to understand but it is always in your best interest to learn about your rights. If you find yourself in a situation where you need professional help, call a member of our team. We pride ourselves on taking the time to get to know you so that we can best represent you and get you the best results possible!

DISCLAIMER: This section offers a series of criminal law and personal injury related bulletins prepared by the attorneys at Hayes Law Offices. This is not exhaustive, nor is it legal advice. You should discuss your particular situation with us or with your own attorney. Our legal representation is only undertaken through a contract and not by the distribution or use of this information.