To counter the idea of a tyrannical government and preserve individual
autonomy as well as freedom from unnecessary and harassing arrests, the
founding fathers placed heavy restrictions on what federal and state law
enforcement could do in terms of conducting these searches for evidence.
However, banning searches outright meant that no justice would ever be
served, so a careful balance had to be achieved. This balance is found
in the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees protection from “unreasonable”
search and seizure. However, “reasonability” is a common question
and one that has been reviewed many times over. Let’s go over a
basic outline of these laws and how they have an impact on your case.
When Can Officers Search Me?
As a general rule, the Fourth Amendment states that law enforcement can’t
conduct a search on anyone or their property without establishing a valid
reason for doing so, and then using that valid reason to obtain permission.
This permission is granted in the form of a search warrant, which is a
document signed off by a judge who deems the reason for the search acceptable.
However, search warrants are not wide-open permission slips to do whatever
they please: officers are restricted to only searching for what they believe
they’ll find and where they believe they’ll find it.
The second way officers can legally conduct a search is with your permission.
This is about as straightforward as it gets: if law enforcement request
your permission to search you and you grant them that ability, they can
legally use anything obtained as evidence against you.
Finally, officers can conduct a search without obtaining a warrant if they
believe the time it takes to get a warrant would result in the destruction
of evidence. The most common use of this is in DUI arrests, where the
longer the officers take to collect the blood or breath test samples,
the more likely it is the evidence will fade away.
What is Unlawful Search and Seizure?
A search is considered unlawful if the circumstances surrounding it do
not fit into one of the listed exceptions up above. Here are some examples:
- A law enforcement officer asks you to step out of your car at a traffic
stop before digging through your glove box.
- Acting on an anonymous tip, the police break down your door and search
your home looking for drugs without obtaining a search warrant.
- Law enforcement witness you driving away from a nightclub and then arrest
you two blocks down the road and force you to take a blood or breath test
without establishing probable cause.
There are many reasons why a search and seizure could be considered unlawful,
and it’s important to have a Springfield criminal defense attorney
help you fight back if your search was illegal. Call Worsham Law Firm
today at (471) 658-4172 to
schedule a consultation.