To conduct a search, must the police always have a warrant?
Police can conduct searches if they have a search warrant, but many times they don’t, so what they try to do is to get consent. They will ask a homeowner, a driver of a car, someone traveling at an airport, “You mind if we search you?” Of course it doesn’t often happen that way where they say “Do you mind if we search you?” People are usually given direct orders: “Open your trunk. Open the suitcase.” Yet when you read the police report it will say “We asked for their consent to search and they said ‘Fine.'”
Very often they’ll ask you to sign a written waiver. My strong advice is don’t ever consent to a search, period, end of story. There is nothing good that can come from consenting to a search even if the police don’t find anything. It’s degrading, it’s offensive, and there’s simply no reason to do so. If the police have a legal right to search, they will. Believe me, police look for every way possible to justify a search, even by using canines, police canines that will alert whenever the police want them to alert, and they will then say “Ah ha, we have probable cause,” and they get what we call a free search.
Don’t consent. Protect your rights. Protect the Constitution. Protect the Bill of Rights. You’ll be better off. If the police feel they have a right to search they’re going to do it anyway. There’s no reason for you to consent, because then you may well lose your right to challenge the legality of the search.