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WHAT IS UNLAWFUL SEARCH & SEIZURE?

Posted: February 23, 2017

To counter the idea of a tyrannical government and preserve individual autonomy as well as freedom from unnecessary and harassing arrests, the founding fathers placed heavy restrictions on what federal and state law enforcement could do in terms of conducting these searches for evidence. However, banning searches outright meant that no justice would ever be served, so a careful balance had to be achieved. This balance is found in the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees protection from “unreasonable” search and seizure. However, “reasonability” is a common question and one that has been reviewed many times over. Let’s go over a basic outline of these laws and how they have an impact on your case.

WHEN CAN OFFICERS SEARCH ME?

As a general rule, the Fourth Amendment states that law enforcement can’t conduct a search on anyone or their property without establishing a valid reason for doing so, and then using that valid reason to obtain permission. This permission is granted in the form of a search warrant, which is a document signed off by a judge who deems the reason for the search acceptable. However, search warrants are not wide-open permission slips to do whatever they please: officers are restricted to only searching for what they believe they’ll find and where they believe they’ll find it.

The second way officers can legally conduct a search is with your permission. This is about as straightforward as it gets: if law enforcement request your permission to search you and you grant them that ability, they can legally use anything obtained as evidence against you.

Finally, officers can conduct a search without obtaining a warrant if they believe the time it takes to get a warrant would result in the destruction of evidence. The most common use of this is in DUI arrests, where the longer the officers take to collect the blood or breath test samples, the more likely it is the evidence will fade away.

WHAT IS UNLAWFUL SEARCH AND SEIZURE?

A search is considered unlawful if the circumstances surrounding it do not fit into one of the listed exceptions up above. Here are some examples:

  • A law enforcement officer asks you to step out of your car at a traffic stop before digging through your glove box.
  • Acting on an anonymous tip, the police break down your door and search your home looking for drugs without obtaining a search warrant.
  • Law enforcement witness you driving away from a nightclub and then arrest you two blocks down the road and force you to take a blood or breath test without establishing probable cause.

There are many reasons why a search and seizure could be considered unlawful, and it’s important to have a Springfield criminal defense attorney help you fight back if your search was illegal. Call Worsham Law Firm today at (471) 658-4172 toschedule a consultation.

Categories: Criminal Defense