What's Considered Unlawful Search and Seizure?

As American citizens, we are protected under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Fourth Amendment protects against unlawful intrusion from the government into our personal privacy. The Fourth Amendment applies to police arrests and searches. As a result, whenever law enforcement engages in a search and seizure, they must do so legally. They must be in compliance with a number of rules and statutes to ensure that these rights are not violated. To help you understand your Fourth Amendment rights, we have put together some answers to the most frequently asked questions. We also provide additional criminal defense information for your review. When does a search occur? A court must determine that the investigation intruded upon a person’s legitimate expectation of privacy. If a person does not have an expectation of privacy, no “search” has occurred for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment. Additionally, if the expectation is unreasonable, no Fourth Amendment search has occurred. In other words, if you have no expectation to privacy, the police may search without question. When can the police enter or search my property? Property within your home, vehicle, or located on your person is considered private. If the police enter your property to search for evidence, they must either receive your permission or obtain a warrant. However, the police may conduct a search without either if they have probable cause to believe that a crime is being committed. Special circumstances in which police may conduct a search without a warrant Special circumstances include emergency situations where prompt action is required to protect the public or evidence. This is known as “exigent circumstances.” Likewise, the police have a right to conduct a search of an arrested person and their immediate surroundings. This type of search is for police protection. What can the police do with a search warrant? If the police have a warrant, they may legally enter a residence without the owner’s permission. They can search for evidence listed in the warrant in places authorized by the warrant. If a warrant allows the police to search a person’s garage for stolen items, they must only search the garage. Wider searches may be allowed to ensure their own safety and the safety of others. Wider searches are allowed to stop the destruction of evidence. What is the “plain view” doctrine? The police do not need a search warrant to seize evidence that is located in plain view. However, the police must be legally authorized to be where the evidence is located. For example, if a bag of cocaine is left in plain view in a living room, the police may seize the drugs without contest. When can the police search my car during a traffic stop? Generally, the police may only search your car during a traffic stop if they have a reasonable suspicion that you are armed or are in possession of contraband materials. Under a recent Supreme Court ruling, it was ruled that the passenger compartment of a car may only be searched if the arrested person is within reaching distance of it. Additionally, the passenger compartment may be searched if it is reasonable to believe that the vehicle contains evidence relating to the arrested offense. Arrested? Contact Musell Law Today If you have been arrested and charged with any sort of crime and believe your Fourth Amendment rights were violated in the process, contact us. Our Denver criminal defense attorneys at Musell Law can examine the circumstances surrounding your arrest and determine if an unlawful search or seizure occurred. Let us defend your future – call (720) 722-3457 or contact us online today to discuss your legal options.