Understanding the law in regard to searches and seizures by law enforcement is important. Law enforcement cannot simply search or arrest whomever they wish. They must establish probable cause or conduct a search or make an arrest based upon a valid warrant issued by a judge. I understand how search and seizure violations can positively impact my clients’ cases. I can utilize my knowledge on this subject to turn an entire case around in my client’s favor.

“Robert really came to my rescue! I found myself under false accusations and he really came through. I was really freaking out, and Robert was able to make me feel like I was in good hands. I can’t recommend his services enough.”Drew, CA

Do I have to submit to a search of my car or person?

To stop and pull over a driver, the police officer must have probable cause that a law has been broken. If you’re driving with a broken tail light and you run a stop sign or are swerving down the road, an officer has grounds to pull you over. If the officer observes something in plain sight that gives him reason to believe a crime has been committed or is about to be committed, the officer has reasonable suspicion based on “specific and articulable facts” to search the vehicle and persons inside. If there is nothing in plain sight or anything readily identifiable to suggest that a crime has been or will be committed, the officer does not have grounds to search a car. These kinds of searches are especially important in drug trafficking cases where police may not have reasonable suspicion to stop a car, but do so based on some form of racial profiling.

In cases involving searches of people, an officer can only search those areas within the person’s immediate control. For example, if you are suspected of stealing from a store, an officer can search your backpack or purse because it is within your immediate control. If nothing is found on your person, an officer does not have the right to walk you to your car and ask to search your vehicle as well.

Searches of Your House or Apartment – Illegal Search and Seizure Attorney

Police officers cannot enter a house without a valid search warrant or without the voluntary permission of the owner. In some cases, officers approach a house, knock on the door, and begin talking to the person who opens the door. In the process, they try to look into the house to see if there is anything in plain sight that they believe provides them with probable cause to enter the house without a warrant. Many of these “knock and talk” home entries have serious constitutional problems and it is possible that any evidence seized will be thrown out in court.

If an officer has a valid search warrant, the officer can enter the home and conduct a search. However, if the warrant specifies areas to be searched or items to be searched for, the search should be confined to those areas or items. For instance, if an officer is looking for stolen computers but searches a small Band-Aid® box in the medicine cabinet, any illegal substances found there cannot be seized as evidence against you. Since a computer cannot fit inside a Band-Aid® box, there is no reason to search there.

Due to increased concerns of terrorist attacks, the Patriot Act allows law enforcement officers to randomly search handbags, backpacks, and other personal effects in airports and on subways. To date, these kinds of searches have been found to be constitutional, even when there is no probable cause that would otherwise justify them.

Protect Your Rights

Unfortunately, police officers sometimes suffer from a tribal mentality of us versus them. As a result, they may occasionally rationalize questionable or outright unconstitutional behavior if they believe it results in “getting the bad guys.” They can also take advantage of a person’s lack of knowledge regarding the law. It’s not uncommon for officers to engage a suspect in conversation in order to see if the suspect will incriminate him or herself or agree to let the officers search his / her car or house voluntarily. What may appear as good police work may be nothing more than manipulation, intimidation, or outright harassment.

Evidence acquired from an illegal search and seizure is referred to as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” Because it was obtained illegally, it taints any accusations or evidence seized against a suspect. Illegally obtained evidence cannot be used in court, and for this reason, charges based on such evidence are often dropped or thrown out of court. I have the experience and knowledge needed to determine if the evidence obtained was illegally obtained and thus inadmissible in court.

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