When can the Idaho police (fill in the blank)?

Boise Idaho PoliceA good number of the questions I am asked to answer as a criminal defense attorney in Boise, Idaho usually involve a question about what the police in Idaho are allowed to do. When can they search my car? When can they search my house? When can they stop my car? etc. etc. Of course there are no simple answers to these questions. It is a very complicated and convoluted area of law, even for seasoned attorneys. But the first rule you should know, and the rule that all attorneys and all judges start out with in their analysis, is what we legal professionals call the “Warrant Requirement.”

The Warrant Requirement comes from the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Warrant Requirement is the requirement that a government actor (most often a police officer) cannot “search or seize” your “persons, houses, papers, and effects” without a warrant. A warrant must be signed by a judge, and a judge can only sign a warrant, if the warrant is supported by “probable cause.” (You probably want to know what probable cause is, I’ll answer that in a later post) Also the warrant must be particular, it has to specify “the place to be searched, or the person or things to be seized.” (Questions about the particularity of a warrant will also be answered in a later post)

The Warrant Requirement is not an absolute rule. The police do not need a warrant whenever they need to act. In fact, the circumstances in which a police officer needs a warrant may be less often than you think. The reason for this is the courts, both in Idaho and in the federal government, have created exceptions to the Warrant Requirement. So many exceptions in fact, that many would argue the exceptions have nearly “swallowed the rule.”

Now I apologize, because I know the above information is going to be of little help to you. It probably has created more questions than it has answered. And if I answered them all in this one blog post, the post would be extraordinarily long, and you probably wouldn’t read it. However, very important questions arise from this elusive requirement known as the Warrant Requirement, and those questions are probably the ones you want answers to, and probably the answers that you will find most helpful. Over the next several months I will be answering these important questions.

You may want to know:

  • When can an Idaho police officer search my car?
  • When can an Idaho police officer stop my car?
  • When can an Idaho police officer ask me to step out of my car?
  • When can an Idaho police officer search me? (i.e. frisk me)
  • When can an Idaho police officer stop me to ask me questions?
  • When can an Idaho police officer search my house?
  • When can an Idaho police officer question me?
  • When can an Idaho police officer arrest me?

You may be wondering why I would say “an Idaho police officer” rather than any police officer. Well this is Idaho, and I’m an Idaho attorney. Every state has its own criminal code, and so every state’s law is bound to be different. As an attorney, I am only licensed to practice in Idaho, and Idaho law is naturally my focus. I am also licensed to practice in federal court, and the federal courts have also chimed in on these issues, and many of their decisions are binding on the state courts.

So stay tuned. In the next few weeks several of these questions will be answered. Don’t be surprised though if the answers just lead to more questions. But in the meantime, keep in mind that if you believe that the police will always need a warrant to search your car, think again!

Boise, Idaho Criminal Defense Attorney

Craig Atkinson is the lead attorney at Atkinson Law Office,
Boise DUI and Criminal Attorneys. It is located at 1087 W River St #290, Boise, ID 83702. You can call him anytime at 208.571.0627.

Ask Craig to review your case.

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3 Comments
  1. Since the rule/idaho code has become so convoluted, my question is geared more towards when are you allowed to say NO to an Idaho police officer. Like most people, my naive and limited knowledge of the law would lead me to do whatever a police officer told me to do in fear of getting in trouble or being assumed of some sort of wrong doing. Another question would be, when is saying no to a police officer’s search or simply staying silent more beneficial to me, even with nothing to hide.

  2. Katy,

    Very good questions. Below you will find my initial thoughts and opinions, but I will also be writing my blog posts that address these very issues, so stay tuned.

    There are many ways of approaching your question.

    First you can always tell an officer no. You are free to say whatever you want to an officer. In fact, I remember one case where a man told an officer to F#@* Off. The Supreme Court held that the man had the freedom to express himself to the officer.

    However, I don’t believe your question is whether you are free to speak your mind or remain silent, your question is, what may the consequences if you do.

    Your concern is that the officer may think you are guilty since you are not telling him what he wants to hear (remaining silent). Or he may arrest you if you tell him no, you cannot search my car.

    My advice is to not worry about it. Don’t be concerned with what the officer thinks, or what the officer is going to do. That is out of your hands. Your concern should be, what is a jury going to think, and what is a jury going to do. Very rarely is it going to help you to speak to an officer, or give him permission to search your car, even if your innocent. If an officer is interrogating you, he already thinks you did it, and already believes that anything you are about to say is a lie. So he will attempt to twist every word that comes out of your mouth, in hopes of strengthening his case against you.

  3. Under the Headline here, When can the Idaho police (blank)? When can Idaho Police be charged with Falsifying an Official Police Report. What is the specific code violation and possible repercussions of such an action?

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