Police and Searches: Can the Police Conduct A Search Against You Without A Warrant?

Questions that may come to mind of many individuals facing the conduct of search by the police includes  can the Nigerian police actually search me and my properties without a search warrant; Can I demand a search warrant be produced before the police conduct their search?; Can a male police officer search a woman and the woman’s things? e.t.c

When talking about the power of the police to conduct searches with or without a search warrant, it can be broken down into 3 categories for ease of understanding. These are search of persons, search of things and search of premises.

  • SEARCH OF A PERSON : CAN THE POLICE SEARCH YOU WITHOUT A WARRANT?

The answer is yes. The police can search a person with or without a search warrant.

The Police Act empowers a police officer to detain and search any person whom he reasonably suspects of having in his possession or conveying in any manner anything which he has reason to believe to have been stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained.

  • Is there any right you need to be aware of in regards to your person being searched by the police? Yes, there is. In regards to search of a person, only a female police officer may search a woman. The law in Lagos state particularly states that a person must be searched by persons of the SAME sex . The exception however is that a male police officer can still search a woman’s handbags, purses, wallet etc.
  • SEARCH OF THINGS : CAN THE POLICE SEARCH YOUR THINGS  WITHOUT A WARRANT?

The answer is yes. The police can conduct the search of things with or without warrant. The police officer therefore has the power and can search and stop vehicles on the road without a warrant.

The Power of search of things without warrant is also conferred on customs officers, and the Federal and State Task Forces of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC)

  • SEARCH OF PREMISES : CAN THE POLICE SEARCH YOUR HOUSE OR PREMISES WITHOUT A WARRANT?

Generally, the answer is No. The police require a search warrant to search your premises and any search conducted without such warrant is UNLAWFUL . However there are certain exceptions to this general rule.

Some Situations where police can search premises without a search warrant

    • Where a Police Officer acting upon a warrant of arrest suspects that the person to be arrested has entered into or is within any premises.
    • Where a person against whom a Warrant of Arrest has been issued is found in a premises
    • Where there is a complaint on oath as to an abducted person kept in the premises.
    • The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp do not need a search warrant to enter a premise where there is a reasonable belief that government property is being unlawfully harboured
    • Custom officers may enter and break into any Premises reasonably suspected to harbour illegal goods.
  • National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) officials can search any premises connected with a drug related offence.

TIME OF ISSUE AND EXECUTION OF SEARCH WARRANT:  A search warrant may be issued and executed on any day including Sundays or Public holidays. It is usually executed between the hours of 5am  to 8pm.

BY IGHORIMOTO EFEMENA; EFEMENA96@GMAIL.COM

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