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Search and seizure is a legal procedure whereby police, who suspect that a crime has been committed, do a search of a person's property and confiscate any relevant evidence to the crime. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides for a citizen's protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Case law has maintained that until an arrest has occured, law enforcement are required to gain a warrant before they can effect a search. However, searches are premitted under the "plain view" and "open fields" doctrine that allow an officer to seize evidence that is located where there is no expectation of privacy. In addition, there is an exception for "exigent circumstances" where the officer reasonably believes that a suspect may destroy evidence. Otherwise, an officer can only effect a search on the basis that there is "probable cause" that a crime has been committed. What a police officer can see before an arrest is only what he/she can search. Without a warrant, the officer is breaking the laws of the constitution.
This article is licensed under the GNU Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Search & seizure".