Was I Subject to An Illegal Search and Seizure?

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides all people protections from being subject to unlawful searches and seizures, which invade their rights to privacy. There are however limitations on these protections, and certain circumstances where the police may be justified in conducting a search of your car, person, home or other property in order to seize contraband or other evidence of a crime. So, how do you know if you have been subject to an illegal search and seizure, or if the police acted properly in upholding the law?

The police may engage in reasonable searches and seizures. In order to demonstrate that a search was reasonable, police must have probable cause that a crime has been committed. If the police have probable cause, a search may be justified. Greater protections may be provided where the police are acting without the benefit of a search warrant. Further, the police may conduct a valid search if there is no expectation of privacy in the place searched. For instance, you likely do not have an expectation of privacy in items that you place in your trash barrel and leave out in the street for pick up; thus, if the police search this barrel while it is out on the curb awaiting trash collection, this is probably proper conduct by police.

However, if the police perform a warrantless search in an area where you do have a legitimate expectation of privacy, such as your home, this will likely be unlawful conduct, unless there is an exception to the warrant requirement. The police also may not stop and frisk you, or search your vehicle without reasonable suspicion or probable cause related to criminal activity.

The nuances of search and seizure law are detailed and complex, and are very case specific. The actions of police must be evaluated on a case by case basis. It is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure that the police have acted properly and have not violated your rights to be protected from unreasonable search and seizure.

Source: Findlaw.com, Searches and Seizures: The Limitations of Police Conduct, accessed Jan. 30, 2018.

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