Illegal (or unreasonable) search and seizure happens when law enforcement performs a search without a warrant to do so.
Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, law enforcement officers may engage in “reasonable” searches and seizures.
What Constitutes an Illegal Search and Seizure?
There are even some situations where police must first show probable cause before a judge in order to obtain a warrant. In order to prove the search is reasonable, the police need to demonstrate that it is “more likely than not” that a crime has happened, and that if a search is performed, it is probable that they will find either evidence of a criminal offense or stolen goods, which results in probable cause.
There are even some situations where police must first show probable cause before a judge in order to obtain a warrant. Remember, protections to citizens offered by the Fourth Amendment applies to a search only if an individual has a “legitimate expectation of privacy” in the place or property searched. If not, the amendment offers no protection due to the lack of privacy issues.
Police may not do the following:
- If you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, police officers may not conduct a warrantless search.
- If evidence was gathered through an unreasonable or illegal search, the “exclusionary rule” comes into effect. This means that police may not use any evidence obtained through illegal search against you at trial.
- Law enforcement may not use evidence from an illegal search to discover other evidence.
- The police may not search your vehicle unless there is a reasonable suspicion that it contains evidence or contraband.
- The police may not “stop and frisk” you unless they have a reasonable suspicion that you are involved in a crime.
If you are facing criminal charges, your attorney may find issues with how the evidence was gathered that could lead to its exclusion at trial. Because of this, it is critical to obtain legal representation from a criminal defense lawyer as early in the process as possible.