pulling over for first responders

Laws Regarding Emergency Vehicle On The Road

pulling over for first responders

While and emergency may not happen to you on a daily basis, they do happen pretty frequently around the world. This leads to quite a lot of first responders rushing off to save the day. This, in turn, means that a lot of drivers have encountered an emergency vehicle rushing by them on the road.

Many drivers know that when they hear the sirens and see the flashing lights they need to get out of the way. However, not every driver follows this law. Some drivers don’t realize that they are in fact required by law to move out of the way. This can cause problems for the emergency problems for the first responders and get a person in big trouble.

What is the Law?

Here in the state of California, all drivers are required to move out of the way of emergencies vehicles that are on their way to an emergency. Basically, this means that any time an emergency vehicle is approaching with its lights flashing and siren blaring, the driver needs to pull over to the side. This is required by California Vehicle Code 21806.

Under VC 21806 all traffic within 1,000 feet of an emergency vehicle with flashing lights and sirens should immediately pull over to the right of the road, as soon as it is safe to do so. A driver should move over in a safe manner and should not block any intersections. The driver then needs to remain to the side of the road until the vehicle has passed.

If a person is driving on a freeway and an emergency vehicle comes up behind them with their lights on, the vehicle still needs to move to the right. If the driver is currently in a sectioned off lane, such as a carpool lane, they have to move out of the way. They are legally allowed to cross over a double yellow line in order to do so.

Even street cars and trolleys have to “pull over.” Since these vehicles can’t pull over due to the fact that they are on rails, this basically means that vehicle has to come to a complete stop wherever it is, provided it does not stop in an intersection.

Consequences for Not Moving Over

If a driver does not move out of the way, tries to stay in front of, or tries to follow immediately behind and emergency vehicle, they can be ticketed. A first time violation of California Vehicle Code 21806 can earn a person a minimum fine of $490 fine. This doesn’t include any fees that may also be tacked onto the price. The person will also receive a point on their DMV record.

California uses a point system to keep track of drivers and make sure they follow the rules of the road. If a driver acquires too many points on their record within too short of a time, they could face higher insurance rates and run the risk of losing their driver’s license.

What about Getting Pulled Over?

Another time that a person may see flashing lights while driving is when they are getting pulled over for a traffic violation. The driver could have broken any number of laws, ranging from having a broken taillight to speeding. No matter the reason behind the action, the result is the same.

When a person sees a law enforcement vehicle approach from behind with flashing lights, they need to move over to the right. If the vehicle continues to follow the driver, then they are being pulled over. They need to either pullover to the right side of the road, or exit the freeway and then pullover. The officer will likely use a loudspeaker to direct the driver on what to do. The driver should follow all of the officer’s instructions.

Emergency Vehicles Get Right of Way

When it comes to emergency vehicles with flashing lights, they always get the right of way no matter the situation. Drivers should always yield to emergency vehicles. The same even goes for pedestrians. Pedestrians should never try to cross a road when an emergency vehicle is approaching.

The reason behind all of this is that these vehicles are on their way to deal with very important things. The occupants of the vehicles are first responders to emergency situations and time is critical for them. The extra second they have to wait for someone to get out of the way could cost someone else their life. That is why it is always important to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle that has its lights flashing and sirens blarring.

hate speech laws

Are Your Words Offensive?

hate speech laws

As Americans we love our freedom, and one of our favorite freedoms is our freedom of speech. This is granted to us by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. The amendment allows us to speak our minds, practice any religion, and protest. The internet now allows us to exercise our First Amendment right daily and anywhere we’d like. The problem is that the internet is still a new world and no one is quite sure how to handle it yet.

The First Amendment protects people who we don’t necessarily want to protect. Website that may contain what could be considered hate speech are protected under the First Amendment. These sites can say horrible things, but are still allowed to exist so long as they do not incite violence or are what is referred to as a true threat. A true threat is classified as statements where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals. As long as websites don’t cross that line they are protected under the First Amendment just like everyone else.

All freedom comes with a price, and the freedom of speech comes at the cost of allowing hate speech to exist. Hate speech, according to the American Bar Association is, “speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.” While being able to speak our minds freely, without fear of repercussion for a difference in opinions is good, not everyone has something nice to say. Many people out there don’t follow the age old adage of: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

There will always be pros and cons to everything in life. While it may be good to allow people the freedom of speech, we have to be willing to acknowledge the bad that comes with it. Without freedom of speech we would be living in a completely different world. Speeches like Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream,” would have never occurred if we didn’t have the First Amendment in our country’s Constitution.

What Does DUI Stand For?

What Does DUI Stand For

Just about every driver out there has heard of the term DUI. They know that it is something that they never want to receive and that it has something to do with drinking and driving. What many people may not realize is that DUI covers a whole lot more than drinking and driving. In fact that is why the term was changed from DWI to DUI.

With the recent passing of Proposition 64 in 2016, the state of California started the process of legalizing the use of recreational marijuana. With this legalization came new laws that limited and restricted the use of the drug. Even two years later, there is a bit of confusion as to when and where a person can smoke or ingest marijuana. One of the big questions is whether or not someone can drive after smoking marijuana, or even smoke while driving. The answer to that question may surprise some people.

What Is a DUI?

DUI and DWI are two terms that drivers should recognize. They both stand for similar ideas, but in slightly different ways. DWI stood for driving while intoxicated. This was a crime that a person could commit by driving any vehicle while they were drunk. California adopted the acronym DUI for its broader range of meaning. DUI stands for driving under the influence, which can mean the influence of alcohol or the influence of drugs.

Most people know that drinking alcohol and driving is a very bad idea. Alcohol consumption can make a person’s mind foggy, which leads to them making bad decisions. Behind the wheel of a vehicle, those bad decisions can be deadly. This is why it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle after consuming enough alcohol to have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of or greater than .08%.

If a driver is caught committing a DUI for the first time, they face:

  • An immediate suspension of the driver’s license for at least four months.
  • Up to six months in jail.
  • A fine up to $1,000 plus any legal fees.
  • A $125 fee to get the driver’s license reissued.
  • An enrollment in a DUI program.
  • Possible installation of a breathalyzer ignition lock.

These are just the penalties for first time offenders. Repeat offenders face harsher versions of these penalties, such as longer jail stays or larger fines. The hope is that person will eventually learn to stop getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.

DUI and Marijuana Usage

A big question for some drivers is whether or not DUI applies to the usage of marijuana. The short answer is yes, it does apply. As mentioned earlier, DUI stands for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. While marijuana may have been legalized here in California, it is no more legal to drive while high than it is to drive while drunk.

This is largely due to the same reasons for driving while drunk being illegal. Marijuana affects the users mind and alters how they make decisions. Driving needs a lot of focus and attention and one bad decision can get someone hurt or worse. That is something no one wants to deal with.

Since driving while high or drunk are both covered by DUI, the penalties for driving while high are the same as driving under the influence of alcohol. Most of the rules against driving while drunk translate over to driving while high. For instance, a driver of a vehicle is not allowed to have an open container of alcohol or marijuana in the vehicle.

Why Is This Important?

Due to how often many people drive, they often forget how dangerous the act actually is. One wrong turn or panicked movement could very easily end someone’s life. Driving requires a person’s full attention and focus. This is why there are laws to prevent a person from driving when their mind has been affected by drugs or alcohol.

Aside from alcohol and the obvious drugs like marijuana, DUI also covers driving under the influence of lesser drugs such as Nyquil. This is because even drugs like this can affect a person’s decision making process.

Driving is a part of everyone’s day, and one can bet that every other person on the road would appreciate it if no one committed DUI. However, if a person does commit some form of DUI, they will face legal consequences.

leaving kids in car

Is It Legal to Break a Window to Save a Child or Pet from a Hot Car

leaving kids in car

Summer is in full swing. Not only does this mean that the kids are out of school for the season, but that temperatures are at their peak. Summer holds a number of problems for parents. Not only do they have to try to figure out what to do with their children while still managing their normal work schedule, they also have to make sure their kids keep cool.

Nobody likes being in the heat for prolonged periods, and young children are especially susceptible to high temperatures. Younger kids don’t know how to take care of themselves and have to rely on their parent’s judgement. This means that a parent should never leave their child unattended in a hot situation.

One particular situation that might seem obvious to some, but is still shocking to others, is leaving a child alone in a car on a hot day. Some parents still think that this is an acceptable thing to do, but that is not the case. Something as simple as this can turn dangerous, or even deadly, in minutes.

Cars Equal Ovens

While driving a vehicle on a summer day, people often have the air conditioner cranked to max. This fills the cars with cool, comfortable air while it is being driven. However, the minute the car is shut off, this cool air disappears. Some parents believe that this cool air will last for five minutes while they are in the store. Their kid should be fine in the car alone for just a few minutes, right? Wrong.

Cars are like giant, solar powered ovens. Many people got the unpleasant experience of going down a metal slide on a hot day as a kid. Just touching metal that has been in the sun for a little bit is unpleasant, try being inside of it. On top of that, the glass windows of cars act like magnifying glass and amplify the Sun’s rays. This, combined with the lack of air movement inside the vehicle creates an oven that even cracking the windows or parking in the shade can’t fix.

Cracking the windows just a little bit does not allow enough air movement to cool the car down. Anyone who has ever been stranded on the side of a desert road, will attest to the fact that even having the door fully open doesn’t allow enough air movement inside the vehicle. Parking in the shade may slow the process slightly, but the hot air surrounding the vehicle will still increase the interior temperature of the vehicle.

Most experts agree that once the outside temperatures reach 75 degrees Fahrenheit, it is too hot to leave anyone in a vehicle. At this temperature, the inside of a car can reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes. If the outside temperature is 80 degrees, then the inside temps can reach 100 in just 10 minutes.

Basically, don’t leave anyone, child or pets, unattended inside a vehicle in weather that is warmer than 70 degrees.

What to Do If You See This

Unfortunately, people still have a tendency to leave children, and pets, inside their vehicles while they make a “quick” trip into the store. An estimated 22 kids have died in 2018 after suffering from heatstroke caused by being left alone in a car. This causes many people to want to help out if they see a child, or even a pet, alone in vehicle on a hot day. However, this is a bit tricky in California.

Last year, in 2017, the state of California passed a law allows people to break into vehicles in order to save the life of an animal trapped inside. AB 797 amended California Civil Code and Penal Code to ensure that a person who damages and/or trespasses within a vehicle while not face any criminal charges if the damage and trespass occurred while rescuing an animal from the vehicle. The protections only occur if the breaking into the vehicle was a last resort and that other methods were not tried first. This means that before anyone springs into action, they should first call 911. The operator can send help and may be able to guide the person through some other ways of getting into the without causing large amounts of damage.

It is important to note that the law specifically states this only happens when the person is rescuing an animal, not a child. The law makes no mention of protection if the actions are done to save a child’s life. This means that legally, you cannot break into a car to save a child inside who is suffering from heat stroke. If you see a child alone in a vehicle on a hot day, alert the proper authorities immediately, and stay close to the vehicle to keep an eye on the situation.

Summer Heat Is Here to Stay

As the summer progresses with its intense heat, parents need to be aware that they should never leave their child, or pet, inside a vehicle on a hot day. Several kids have already died this year to heatstroke cause by doing this, which is something no parent wants to face. If the kids can’t be left at home, then they need to go into the store with their parent. Simple as that.

If a person comes across a vehicle in a parking lot with a pet locked inside on a hot day, he can break into the vehicle to rescue the animal. Provided he has tried every other option and has contacted the local authorities already. When it comes to finding a child in the same situation, legally, the person cannot break into the car. He should contact emergencies services and proceed from there. Once he has done that, his next move is up to him.

Should You Leave Your Child Home Alone?

leaving kids home alone

Summer is here, and for a lot of parents, it means their children are home for the summer. While kids love this time of year, it can be particularly stressful on the parents. This is due to the fact that, unfortunately for adults, they don’t get a summer break. Adults still have to go to work to earn enough money to provide for their families.

The decision to leave kids alone is a big one. It is not something that should be done lightly. Some kids can handle the freedom and responsibility of being home alone, while others cannot. It is up to the parent to determine if their child can handle being on their own for extended periods of time.

The parents will constantly be worried that something might go wrong. What if there is a fire? They can’t help out or protect their kid when they are at work. That is why it is important to teach kids about fire safety and establish rules and emergency plans for the kid to follow in the event that something happens.

How Young Is Too Young?

When determining how young is too young for a child to be left alone, there is no definitive answer. It has to be determined on a case by case basis. Some kids mature faster than others, which leads to some being ready to be left alone earlier. In some states, there are age limits for how old a child needs to be in order to be left alone. In the state of California, there is no age restriction. Parents will have to use their best judgement to determine if a child is mature enough to be left alone.

While there isn’t a definitive answer, there are some recommended guidelines. Typically, children under the age are not capable of judging cause and effect, which can lead to bad decision making. It is recommended that no child under the age of 7 be left alone.

For ages 7 through 10, kids typically can’t watch over themselves for extended periods of time. However, they can be left home alone for short periods of time. Around the age of 12 is when kids usually become mature enough to be left alone for extended periods, though not overnight.

Teach Your Kids

If you have to leave a child home alone, make sure that he or she understands several things. Parents should create rules and make sure the kids understand the consequences of breaking those rules. For instance:

  • Young children should not answer the door when they are home alone.
  • Kids shouldn’t answer the phone when alone.
  • Children should stay within the house when they are by themselves.
  • Children should never use the oven by themselves.
  • Especially for young kids, they should not use sharp knives or scissors without adult supervision.
  • Kids should know to never play with matches.
  • They also should never mess around with electronics, such as taking apart a wall socket.

On top of that, it is important to teach the child about what to do is something goes wrong when they are by themselves.

  • They should know where the first aid kit is.
  • They need to know who to call if something bad happens, such as a parent, a trusted neighbor, or even the authorities.
  • Lastly, there should be an evacuation plan in place for the children in the event that there is a fire.
  • Kids should know to stay low to the ground in the event of a fire to avoid excess smoke inhalation.
  • They should know to get under a sturdy piece of furniture in the event of an emergency.

Giving children this knowledge should help keep them safe when they are by themselves. It will also help keep them safe in case an emergency occurs.

What Happens if Something Goes Wrong

Hopefully, nothing ever goes wrong, but that is not always the case. If something goes wrong, the parent will be responsible for the child and any damages. This is on top of any injuries the child might have sustained. This is every parent’s worst nightmare, which is why it is important to carefully consider whether or not a child should be left alone. The wrong decision could have extreme consequences.

Of course, this is all dependent on the child. Some kids mature faster than others and are capable of being left alone at an earlier age. A parent needs to know their child, and teach him or her how to properly behave when home alone. This can drastically reduce the chances of something going wrong while the parent is away at work this summer.

spying vs stalking california laws

How to Deal With Nosy Neighbors

spying vs stalking california laws

Everybody likes their family and friends. These are the people that the person has hand-selected to be in their life. These are the people we like most, however, they are not typically the people one lives closest to. Those people are called neighbors, and no one gets to pick who their neighbors are. This tends to lead to a bit of conflict.

Neighbors don’t always get along with one another since they tend to be very different people. Due to those differences, some neighbors may become suspicious of one another, which can lead to snooping. Seeing your neighbor snoop through your garbage, or spy on you from their window across the street can be a bit disturbing.

Many people have questions about what is and aren’t okay when it comes to their neighbors. Where is the line between snooping, and stalking?

What Is Considered Stalking

California is considered to have the toughest stalking laws in the country. A person is considered stalking when they willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follow or harass a person while causing fear for life or family.

Examples of stalking can include:

  • Threatening to make an ex’s life hell after a break up.
  • Repeatedly following a person home and making threats to him or her.
  • Sending multiple flowers and/or gifts to an acquaintance and demanding that the love be returned and threatening that there will be consequences if it isn’t.
  • Continually harassing a person to the point that he or she fears for their safety, or that of their loved ones

Basically, any repeated threatening act that can cause a person to fear for their own safety, or the safety of the people they care about, can be considered stalking within the state of California. The penalties for stalking can vary from case to case. The crime is considered a wobbler, which means it can be charged either as a misdemeanor, or as a felony.

As a misdemeanor, a person can face:

  • Up to 1 year in county jail.
  • A fine no larger than $1,000.
  • Some combination of a fine and jail time.

These penalties are not very strict, but as a felony, a person can face up to 5 years in a state prison. The person could also be required to register as a sex offender.

Based on this definition of stalking, unless a person fears for their safety based off of a nosy neighbors actions, it’s not likely that the neighbor is guilty of stalking.

Are There Laws Against Spying?

Here in California, there are two laws that are considered “Peeping Tom laws.” These laws make it illegal for a person to spy on, or take pictures or videos of, another individual who is someplace where they could reasonably expect privacy.

These two laws are:

  • Penal Code 647(i): peeking while loitering.
  • Penal Code 647(j): invasion of privacy.

Penal Code 647(i) is the law that criminalizes the stereotypical Peeping Tom scenario. This makes it illegal for a person to peek into an inhabited house while loitering on private property. In other words, it makes it illegal to sneak onto somebody else’s property without permission to watch them in their home.

Penal Code 647(j) covers three different aspects of invading someone’s privacy.

These aspects are:

  • Using a device, such as binoculars, to invade a person’s privacy. This can include using a device to look into someone else’s home.
  • Secretly filming or photographing a person’s body under their clothes for sexual purposes.
  • Secretly filming or photographing a person in a private room in order to view their body or undergarments. This can include their home, public restrooms, and public changing rooms at stores.
  • Both of these crimes are considered misdemeanors in California, which means that a person can face up to a year in jail, and fine no larger than $1,000.

What about Neighbors Rummaging Through My Trash?

This is something that some neighbors do, and upsets a lot of people. Many believe that this is an infringement on their 4th Amendment rights, which protects them from unreasonable searches and seizures. However, this is not the case.

In the Supreme Court case California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35(1988), the Court ruled that the 4th Amendment does not cover the search and seizure of garbage, as it is just that. By placing something in the trash and setting the trash out on a curb, or wherever the trash can goes to get picked up, the person has relinquished their ownership of the items within the trash receptacle.

Plus, the 4th Amendment only protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures performed by the government, not private individuals. This all means that it is okay for a nosy neighbor to go through another person’s garbage, even if it is a bit creepy.

When should I Contact the Police Then?

When it comes to contacting the police about nosy neighbors, the right time is up to the individual. In most cases, the police will only concern themselves with the problem if a person feels unsafe because of the neighbor’s actions. The best thing to do in these kind of situations, is try talking to the neighbor first, if that can be done safely.

If that cannot be done, then consider contacting the police, but do so in a calm way. Don’t call 911, unless it is an actual emergency. Instead find the local stations number contact it that way. This way emergency lines are not tied up, and the person may be able to get helpful insight from an officer who is more acquainted with the laws of the area.

A person rarely gets to pick their neighbors, which can lead to conflict. However, it is important for an individual to try to remain on friendly terms with their neighbors. After all, these are the people they will likely be living next to for a while.

rules of the road california

Truly Weird Rules of the Road

rules of the road california

Drivers training is the time when you learn what things you can and can’t do while behind the wheel, however, it turns out that there are a few California road rules your driver’s training instructor failed to mention.

The Road Isn’t the Place to Take a Nap

Most of us have had a time when we found we were just too tired to keep driving. The simplest solution is to pull over somewhere and grab a quick power nap. If road fatigue strikes you while you’re traveling through Eureka California, it’s in your best interest to find a fast food place or nice rest area before parking. The town has a strict law stating that while you’re there, you’re breaking the law each time you use the road as a bed. While it’s likely that the creators of the law were trying to discourage anyone from laying down on the asphalt, it’s possible that if an police officer stops to find out why your car is parked on the side of the road and catches you napping, they may decide to issue you a ticket.

The Road is Meant for Rutabagas

There was a time when Chico California was looking at their annual budget and trying to figure out how they could tighten things up. One of the decisions the budgetary committee made was to lower their annual crop dusting bill. They decided that one of the best ways to do this was passing a law that makes it illegal to plant rutabagas in or near the roads. So, if you have a yen for home grown rutabaga and live in Chico, keep your gardening efforts contained to your own property.

Keep Your Margaritas in Their Glass

Hermosa Beach, California town officials are trying to keep the roads and peoples’ vehicles free of the damage done by salt. This effort prompted them to pass a law that makes it illegal to spill margaritas on the any Hermosa Beach street. So, finish that drink before heading outside.

Keep Your Entire Body in the Vehicle

Rumor has it that the reason Glendale California’s town officials opted to pass a law making it illegal for anyone to jump out of their car while it’s traveling 65mph is due to pressure that was being put on them by insurance lobbyists. The reason the law was passed isn’t nearly as important as the knowledge that if you’re passing through Glendale and are suddenly struck by an overwhelming urge to leap from your moving vehicle, you should check your speedometer.

are zoot suits illegal

Skip the Zoot Suit While in Los Angeles

are zoot suits illegal

Zoot suits first became popular when they were donned by some of the biggest jazz musicians in the 1940’s. Once the performers started taking the stage in the bilious suits, people all over the country, including those that lived in Los Angeles, started looking for one of their very own. There was a brief period during the 1990’s when the suits made a comeback.

While you will occasionally catch sight of someone wearing a zoot suit, normally because they’re going to some fancy, throwback dance or party, if this person happens to be in Los Angeles, they’re breaking the law. That’s right, wearing a zoot suit in LA is illegal. Why? Because the city considers zoot suits to be unpatriotic.

While the idea of barring the wearing of any type of clothing on the grounds of patriotism might seem strange, if you dig into LA’s history, you’ll find that there is a historical reason for town officials deciding that zoot suits weren’t a good idea.

In early 1940’s, when zoot suits were considered the height of fashion, things got ugly between Los Angeles’s service personal and the Mexican-American population that called the city home.

In August of 1942, a group of youth who habitually wore zoot suits and were actually referred to as zoot-suiters, got into a fight which resulted in the death of Jose Diaz. People were furious and they turned their frustration and anger on the local youth who were easily identified by their clothing. This resulted in the local law enforcement arresting more than 600 zoot suiters, most of whom Mexican-American. Several were charged with Diaz’s murder, though those convictions were later reversed.

The overturning of the convictions didn’t stop the media from continuing to state that individuals wearing zoot suits were dangerous, that they were gang members. Tensions continued to grow in LA. Things got so bad that several violent altercations, which the media called the Zoot Suit Riots, broke out.

When WWII broke out, rationing quickly became a way of life, everything, including the wool used to make zoot suits became limited. Finally, law makers had the excuse they’d been desperately looking for. Because there was so much material in each zoot suit, the design was declared a waste of resources and therefore buying a new one, was unpatriotic. As for the zoot suits that had been made before the USA got involved in the war, those it was determined should be torn apart so the wool could be repurposed.

Even though all the bad feelings about zoot suits have almost been forgotten, the law forbidding the wearing of one while in LA still stands.

what is the fourth amendment

What Is the Fourth Amendment?

what is the fourth amendment

Here in the United States, we are granted a lot of rights and freedoms thanks to the US Constitution. Many of the most basic rights we have come from the Bill of Rights, which is the first ten amendments of the Constitution. One of the many important amendments there is the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment prevents unreasonable search and seizures of a person’s property. The official wording is as follows:

    “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

What this means, is that law enforcement officials cannot search or take a citizen’s belongings unless they have reasonable suspicion that criminal activity has or will take place, or have a warrant. This also states that the officers can only search and seize things that are listed on the warrant they presented.

This simple law protects a person from having their house searched, and belongings taken without reasonable cause. Reasonable cause means that officers cannot simply search a person because they feel like it. Instead they need to find proof and provide enough evidence that warrants their need to search the house.

The Fourth Amendment is one of many laws within the US Constitution that helps protect everyday citizens from government officials abusing their powers. This is why the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights is so important. They give us our rights and freedoms, and help keep the government from abusing its power.

door to door warrantless searches

Are Door-to-Door Warrantless Searches Legal?

door to door warrantless searches

In 2013, during the aftermath that followed the bombing of the Boston Marathon, many Boston residents responded to knocks on their door. On the other side were angry and armed members of Boston’s SWAT team. They were engaged in massive manhunt for the suspects and wanted to go through the homes and make sure that the individuals involved with the bombing weren’t hiding in any of the nearby homes or holding anyone hostage.

The situation raised in interesting question. In situations like this, are members of law enforcement really allowed to barge into a person’s home and start searching through it even when they don’t have a warrant? After all, the Fourth Amendment was designed to protect you from being bothered by the police while you’re in your home, which means that if they don’t have a warrant, they can’t come in.

Lawyers who specialize in constitutional law believe that the Fourth Amendment is worded in such as way that to gain access to a house, law enforcement officers must knock on the door, announce who they are, and show that they have a search warrant before starting to search the premises. However, many lawyers also agree that in emergency situations, such as in the hours following the Boston Marathon shooting, there are exigent circumstances that allows law enforcement to enter and search a home without a warrant. Lawyers feel that in order for this exception to the Fourth Amendment to be valid, the police have to prove that the general public’s safety is at risk.

Another legal exception is if cops believe that someone in the house is in immediate danger and by entering the house the cops can prevent the situation from escalating. This particular exception to the Fourth Amendment is frequently used as a plot tool during fictional police dramas.

Where things get trickier is when the police seize property during an unwarranted search. Most people assume that they can’t take anything from the house, or use it to build a case against the resident, but that’s not strictly true. The rule of thumb when an officer is in a house, even when they don’t have a warrant, is that they can take anything that’s illegal/contraband that is in plain view while they’re there. Not only can they take it, they can also use it to bring charges against you.