If police search your car or house without a warrant, without permission, and without probable cause, and they don't find anything incriminating, do you have any recourse?

I know about the exclusion rule for when they actually do find something, but id hope that there's still a negative consequence for violating your constitutional rights, even if they don't find anything.

  • This is bordering on legal because it is more about ones recommended course of action than the policy behind it. Still, there is a policy angle to be had. Dec 17, 2013 at 11:49

1 Answer 1


Your first step may be to report the officer to his/her internal affairs department. This is a unit of the police department that is dedicated to addressing abuses by police officers. Not all police departments have an IA Desk and not all IA are diligent in their case work. So if you are not able to use this route or are unsatisfied with the resulted you have other options.

Some other options you have is to report the incident to the FBI. The FBI is responsible for investigating criminal abuse of power(color of law) allegations, such as the type mentioned in the question. Chances are your case will not go anywhere unless there has been a pattern from the officer. But your case could help provide evidence of the pattern in the future against the officer. Part of the problem is going to be proving that the officer did not have probable cause and no exigent circumstances existed that prompted the search. "I thought I heard someone yell for help", or I smelled smoke and thought that evidence may have been in the process of being destroyed are 2 common exigent circumstances that are difficult to disprove. But an officer that consistently uses these nebulous excuses may provide the type of pattern needed for the FBI to take action.

In the US you could take the case before a grand jury and pursue an indictment against the officers there. The reality is that getting in front of the Grand Jury to present a case is very difficult unless you are a lawyer, preferably a states attorney. But if you can get in front of the jury and present evidence that the law has been broken, the grand jury can usually be convinced to indict. The bar here is much lower than it is to convict at trial.

You could also pursue the case in Civil court. For this you will want a lawyer and the cost will usually be high unless you have the type of evidence that a Lawyer might be willing to take the case on contingency. The Civil court will require that you be able to show damages from the act, but has a lower bar for a finding in your favor than does a criminal court.

  • I would also note that the second amendment gives you the right to keep and "BEAR" arms. This mean to protect yourself from an invasive government official, like a police officer, as well as invaders foreign and domestic. But even if you are in a jurisdiction that would honor this right, the police in recent history have a record of pursuing people who kill or endanger other police officers with less reguard for making sure you survive than they should. I personally would rather be a wronged but live victim than a right corpse. Dec 17, 2013 at 18:15
  • That theory worked really well for Kenneth Walker, Breonna Taylor's boyfriend. It got her killed. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Breonna_Taylor Sep 25, 2020 at 16:08
  • @PaulJohnson - There are so many problems with the Breonna Taylor case. That raid was a punitative action, it should never have been sanctioned they were much better off taking them as they left the apartment building, and then searching after they were in custody. That would have been the safest way for everyone especially by-standers. Dec 24, 2020 at 17:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .