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Legal Searches

When can the police search you and your property in Georgia?

Consent Search
An officer can search you or your property if one of the three scenarios exists. First, if you are legally stopped, if the officer does not go beyond the scope of the stop, and if you give your consent (permission) to search, then he can search you or your property.

Probable Cause to Search
Second, if he has probable cause, then he can search you or your property. If he wants to search your house or land, the police usually conduct an investigation and gather sufficient information to approach a magistrate judge. He will have to go to the judge and swear that there is probable cause to search. The magistrate judge will issue a search warrant for for a specific location. If contraband is found you will be arrested.

Your attorney will want to investigate to see if probable cause actually existed. He will also want to determine if the scope of the search was exceeded. After all, if the police were looking for an elephant, they couldn't look in your dresser drawers to find it.

Search Incident to Lawful Arrest
Third, an officer can conduct a search incident to a lawful arrest. For example, if you were pulled over for a traffic violation and were lawfully arrested for DUI or driving on a Suspended License, the officer could legally search you and your vehicle.


Automobile Exception
An automobile exception exists as to the issuance of a search warrant. If the officer makes an otherwise legal stop, and if he develops probable cause to believe you or your vehicle contains contraband, he can search without a warrant. However, in order to conduct a warrantless search, the same probable cause must exist that would support a search warrant.

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