When Is Law Enforcement Allowed to Enter Private Property?

Under the Fourth Amendment, our person, home, vehicle, and other private property are protected from unreasonable search and seizure. This goes back to the days when the British entered homes at will.  While this is the law today, there are numerous exceptions law enforcement may use to bypass this right.  First of all, law enforcement can legally bypass the Fourth Amendment if they have a judge-signed warrant. The state or law enforcement must obtain a valid warrant to perform a lawful search. Otherwise, the contents discovered are not valid in court. For a search to be justified without a warrant, the officer must have articulable reasons for searching a person or private property. Other exceptions apply as well, including pursuit and emergency situations.

Knowing your rights is crucial to protecting yourself from the unjust searching of your property and person. If you suspect that law enforcement has illegally entered your private property, it’s advisable to consult with an attorney who understands the complex nature of warrant laws.

Minnesota Search Warrant Requirements

In the jurisdiction where the person or property being searched is located, the court can issue a search warrant. A search warrant can be granted if any of the following are true:

  • Property or items in question are stolen or embezzled
  • Property or items in question were used in the process of committing a crime
  • The possession of property or items in question are considered a crime
  • Property or items in question were delivered in the act of concealing a crime

The court can only issue a valid search warrant with probable cause. A warrant must be supported by an affidavit that names or describes the person, property, or item being seized. There needs to be a detailed description of the place being searched. Once the court is satisfied with the facts stated in the affidavit and agree that there is probable cause, a judge must sign the warrant. The warrant will also contain the names of those presenting the affidavit and the grounds for its issuance.

Only the officer or officers listed in the warrant can execute the warrant search. The exception to this is the possibility of an officer’s request for aid in the search. When the warrant officer conducts their search, they must give you a copy of the warrant. Once the property or items are searched and removed, the owner and the court must receive a receipt copy.

In standard cases, officers can only serve warrants between 7:00 am and 8:00 pm. However, with court approval, officers may conduct a nighttime search. The affidavit must have facts that merit the nighttime search to prevent the search subject’s loss, destruction, or removal. Search warrants are void within ten days of their issuing if they are not served. Although, once issued, officers can easily renew a warrant when needed.

What Are the Exceptions to a Warrant?

While it’s commonly believed that law enforcement must have a warrant to enter private property, that is not always true. Courts recognize numerous exceptions to warrant requirements.

Exigent Circumstances

Law enforcement may need to immediately engage in a search or seizure to avoid an emergency where life and safety are at risk.

Search Incident to Lawful Arrest

A search without a warrant may be conducted to locate and seize weapons in the protection of law enforcement and to prevent the destruction of evidence.

Automobile Exception

Law enforcement may seize and search automobiles based upon the need to prevent the vehicle from being moved before obtaining a warrant.


Law enforcement may search the property without a warrant if they are permitted. The property owner must give consent without coercion.

Consult Our Criminal Defense Attorneys at Knutson + Casey

Search warrants are complex legal documents meant to help both public safety and law enforcement. Unfortunately, when officers try to rush the process, they may make mistakes. Those mistakes may be beneficial for your case, and cause any evidence obtained to be excluded from court.

At Knutson + Casey, we provide our clients with the skills and knowledge needed to help achieve a favorable outcome for their cases. We have helped thousands of clients achieve satisfactory outcomes. Our Southern Minnesota criminal defense attorneys understand the complexities of criminal and warrant law and know how to build a compelling case to help get our clients the justice they deserve. Contact our office today for a free consultation by calling (507) 344-8888 or filling out our contact form.