On a TV program, they described a case in the USA where a man went missing, presumed murdered; four years later the police was told that he might be buried in his garden, the home had meanwhile be sold to new owners, so the police asked them politely for permission to dig up their garden, and the new owners agree.

What would happen if the owners disagreed? Would the police get a search warrant (when it is quite clear that the new owners of the house are under no suspicion whatsoever)?

Now if the new owners disagreed because there are things in their garden, like marijuana plants, that they don't want the police to see, would there be any way to let police in without getting into trouble for these plants?

1 Answer 1


The police would still be able to get a warrant even if there was no suspicion against the current owners, provided that there was reasonable evidence to suggest that the body was in the garden. In the event that the police enter the garden and see something like the marijuana plants, plain sight doctrine would allow the police to charge the owners with growing marijuana.

If there was something like a green house, separate from the garden area that the body may be located in, the search warrant, if limited in scope, may not apply to the greenhouse. This depends on how specific the location of the body is believed to be: anywhere in the garden? or right behind the house against the wall? The odds are good the police would bring in a cadaver dog (included in the warrant) and patrol the garden to see if the dog finds anything.

  • Exactly right. I believe the standard for a search warrant is "probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime will be found."
    – feetwet
    Jul 4, 2016 at 23:10
  • In other words, anyone engaging in illegal activity runs the risk of being discovered because of a warrant issued for completely unrelated reasons.
    – phoog
    Jul 4, 2016 at 23:47
  • @phoog Yes, if a legal authority sees something illegal, they can prosecute. Your right to privacy prevents them from entering a location illegally, but if they are there legally and they see something, they can prosecute. Jul 6, 2016 at 3:59
  • Well in the US anyway the right to privacy is implicit, but the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure is explicit, and it is the latter explicit right that allows you to keep the police off your property unless they have a search warrant.
    – phoog
    Jul 6, 2016 at 6:07
  • @NicholasPsoras: So you should encourage them to enter illegally?
    – gnasher729
    Jul 6, 2016 at 19:44

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