You may have wondered if police officers were legally allowed to search your vehicle when stopped by officers while driving. Perhaps you have wondered the same thing if police officers ever visited your home or business.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people from unreasonable searches by police in places where they have a right to expect a reasonable amount of privacy. This means that in order to search you or your private property legally, law enforcement must first have reasonable suspicion of a crime.
A search-and-seizure is actually two actions law enforcement officers carry out when they suspect a crime. First, they ‘search’ you or your property, looking for evidence of a crime. If they locate evidence of the suspected crime, they ‘seize’ the items.
In legal search and seizures, the police must have probable cause to suspect that they will find evidence related to a crime before they conduct the search. A search-and-seizure was likely illegal if the police did not have a warrant to search, although a warrant is not always required in an emergency situation. If the police searched property beyond the scope of the warrant, it might have been illegal. Police and prosecutors need evidence to prove a crime occurred. Because of this, police may occasionally conduct a search and seizure improperly in their eagerness to find evidence.
If you are facing a criminal charge and can prove that the evidence was unlawfully collected through an illegal search and seizure, you may be able to get that evidence excluded from your case.