Forrest County Sheriff discusses your rights during a search - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Forrest County Sheriff discusses your rights during a home search

FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) -

Whether you have something to hide or not, what if authorities come to your door? Can you deny them access to your home?

What's to stop an officer from coming to your home saying anything they can to gain access to search?

"There is really nothing to stop an officer from being a rogue officer," said Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee.  

McGee says there's not a simple yes or no answer when it comes to search and seizure.

"Searches hinge on what's called probable cause,"said McGee.

Do you know what your rights are when law enforcement comes knocking at your door? For any officer trying to gain access to search it can be established with their senses.

"Your eyes and your nose are two things that can't trespass. If you smell a substance that you have been trained to know was an illegal substance, it would give you the right to do a search of that premises," said McGee.

McGee says an officer can come to your home without probable cause, enter with your permission, then establish probable cause once inside.

"If you consent to a search of your house, once the law enforcement officer steps inside the house, if there is anything in plain view of that officer that is illegal, then he has the right to seize it," said McGee.

Probable cause is key, but there are instances where it's not required.

"If you can establish that there is a threat to public safety, or that some evidence can be destroyed, then you can search without a warrant," said McGee.

McGee added that's the most important thing to ask for when law enforcement is at your home. McGee says you should request it immediately. 

"I'd like to see the search warrant that shows specifically what you are searching for, and where you are going to search,"said McGee.

McGee says you can ask for a warrant even if the claim to search is critical like a tip someone is being held against their will..

"You can act on that anonymous call to a point. I can go to your residence, and ask you. I can stand outside your door knock, and see if I hear anything going on that is suspicious in that house, and so forth. But when I knock on the door, and you present yourself,  and I tell you what I am there for you can say,' I'm not holding anybody against their will. If you want to search you are going to have to have a search warrant,' " said McGee.

Officers obtain warrants by written permission from judges like Gay Polk-Payton.

"I need probable cause. I need to know that the officer has enough that has created probable cause that he needs my help in securing more information," said Payton.

Both Payton and McGee say an officer's suspicion does give them a right to search.

"Reasonable suspicion does not equate to probable cause. Reasonable suspicion is smaller than probable cause,"said Payton.

McGee and Payton say with no warrant or probable cause you can deny an officer access. If an officer conducts a search without those things your Fourth Amendment Rights have been violated. McGee says if an officer goes rogue hopefully it will catch up with them.  

"Normally, when that happens, you have another officer who has not strayed away from what he should be doing and ends up telling on him,"said McGee.

Copyright 2012 WDAM. All rights reserved.

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