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Miami Criminal Defense Attorney / Blog / Firearm Charges / Can the Police Search Your Property If You “Abandon” It?

Can the Police Search Your Property If You “Abandon” It?


With certain exceptions, the police cannot search your property without a warrant. One exception is a search incident to a lawful arrest. For example, say the police arrest you while you are wearing a backpack. Assuming the arrest is valid, the police can search your backpack without first obtaining a warrant, and any evidence recovered could be used against you at trial.

On the other hand, let’s say the police arrest you while you are standing in the driveway outside of your house. The police could not simply barge into your home and conduct a warrantless search. This falls outside of the search incident to arrest exception.

Florida Appeals Court: Police Lawfully Searched Abandoned Bag

What about a scenario where you had property on you but “abandoned” it before the police arrested you? The Florida Sixth District Court of Appeal recently addressed this exact question. In Hargrove v. State, prosecutors charged the defendant with a number of crimes including possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The key issue was whether the police lawfully recovered the gun the defendant allegedly possessed.

Briefly, here is what happened. One morning just before 5 a.m., law enforcement in Osceola County received a call about a possible burglary. Sheriff’s deputies set up checkpoints around a perimeter to stop vehicles and see if the occupants matched a description of the suspects. The defendant drove his car into one of these checkpoints. When asked to produce identification, however, the defendant accelerated and sped away from the checkpoint.

The defendant proceeded into a residential neighborhood. He exited his own vehicle and placed a strapped bag that he’d been carrying into the backseat of a vehicle parked in the backyard of one of the homes. Police then located and arrested the defendant as he was hiding in another vehicle. The police also recovered the bag. A search revealed the handgun.

At trial, and later before the Sixth District, the defendant argued the police search of the bag was illegal. As the Court of Appeal explained, however, “a person who abandons property no longer maintains a reasonable expectation of privacy in the property after the person has abandoned it.” In other words, by choosing to throw his bag into someone else’ car and walking away, the defendant could not then argue the police violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search. Indeed, as a matter of law the police do not require a warrant to search abandoned property.

Contact Asilia Law Firm Today

Many people understandably have an urge to run and hide from the police when suspected of a possible crime. Acting on that instinct, however, often lands a person in even greater legal trouble. Your best course of action when confronted by the police is to remain silent, do not attempt to flee, and contact a qualified Miami firearm charges attorney as soon as possible. Call the Asilia Law Firm today at 786-420-3014 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.



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