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Understanding your rights with police search and seizure

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Knowing your rights when it comes to police search and seizure is extremely important. An illegal search or seizure can make a huge difference in the outcome of a criminal case, potentially leading to dismissed charges.

Unfortunately, understanding search and seizure laws can be confusing. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Additionally, police officers may sometimes give you the impression they have the right to search when they do not.

Police officers are typically required to have a warrant before they search somewhere, such as your home or vehicle.

Police officers cannot search beyond the scope of a warrant

Even if they do have a search warrant, they are only allowed to search in the areas specified in the warrant. These are usually areas where evidence of the crime is likely to be found.

The warrant must detail exactly what property the police officers are trying to seize and the locations they can search.

There are exceptions to the requirement for a search warrant. One of the most common exceptions is if the evidence is in plain sight.

For example, if you are pulled over for speeding and happen to have drugs sitting in your passenger seat, when the police officer leans down to speak with you and sees the drugs, they can seize them without a warrant because they were in plain sight.

Potential destruction of evidence

Additionally, if police officers have a reason to believe that the evidence will be destroyed by the time they go back and obtain a warrant, they might be able to come in and seize the evidence.

A common example of this involves drugs in a home. If police officers know the drugs are there but will not be able to come back with a warrant for a couple of hours, they know you could easily flush the drugs down the toilet or get rid of them some other way by then.

This could lead to a valid warrantless search of your home to seize the drugs before they can be destroyed.

Another exception to the warrant requirement involves someone in danger of physical harm or death. Police officers can generally enter a home or vehicle without a warrant to prevent harm or save a life.

Finally, police officers could enter your home or vehicle without a warrant if they are trying to capture a fleeing suspect.

You do not have to consent to a search

Remember that if you give consent to a search the police can search your home or vehicle without a warrant. You have a right to say no to a search, although this can be difficult to do if you are anxious or confused while in the moment.

After a search and seizure, you might be wondering if any of your rights under federal or state law were violated. Search and seizure laws are detailed and contain many specific requirements. Police officers failing to follow even one simple rule could mean the difference between a conviction and a dismissal.

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