Understanding Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution limits the power of the law enforcement to arrest, search people and their property, and seize objects. This article is the backbone of the search and seizure law. It is all about privacy. It protects people against “unreasonable” searches and seizures by state or federal law enforcement officials. On the contrary, it does allow “reasonable” searches and seizures provided the police have probable cause they can find evidence of a crime you committed or particular circumstances justify the search without a warrant being issued first.

Search warrants are a tool police use to lawfully search someone’s property. A warrant must include specific reasons of probable cause, supported by sworn oaths of the officials using the warrant, and include a specific place, person, or item being searched. The most argued issue regarding search and seizure is the definition of probable cause. A related topic is the plain sight doctrine which states that an officer has the legal right to seize an item that can be seen or smelled. If these items are not within view, they can still be seized but not used as evidence against you.

A consented search can sometimes cause confusion for some people. A police officer cannot conduct a search without a warrant, probable cause, or consent. You are allowed to deny law enforcement to a search but once you agree and let them in, you give up the ability to challenge the legality of any evidence they find. In addition, they do not have to tell you that you have the right to refuse a consented search. The consent must be given “freely and voluntarily” so fraudulent and coerced consent may be considered an illegal search. Illegal search and seizures can be complicated and depend on circumstance. If you think you have been incriminated due to an illegal search and seizure, contact an attorney at DiCaudo, Pitchford & Yoder today