When law enforcement officers conduct an investigation, they use a variety of tactics and strategies to gather evidence. Among the most common of those is a search and seizure. Evidence legally obtained during a search and seizure may then be admitted at trial to prove the defendant’s guilt. Sometimes, however, law enforcement officers conduct an illegal search and seizure. If you have been charged with a federal crime that involved a search and seizure you should consult an experienced defense attorney to determine if the search was legal and executed properly.
At Haas Law, we have the experience and resources to successfully challenge an illegal search and seizure. Let us put our skills and expertise to work for you to ensure that illegally obtained evidence is not used against you in a criminal prosecution.
The Fourth Amendment Basics
In the United States, we are all fortunate to be protected by the U.S. Constitution which affords us several important rights and privileges. Among those rights is the right to be free from “unreasonable searches and seizures” found in the Fourth Amendment, which reads as follows:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The Fourth Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights to ensure that the police cannot conduct a search and seizure without first obtaining a warrant based on probable cause. Understanding both the warrant requirement and the existing exceptions to that requirement is essential to evaluating whether a search and seizure was legal.
Understanding the Warrant Requirement
The Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures has been watered down somewhat by the courts over the years; however, it remains a cornerstone of search and seizure law. It requires a law enforcement officer to start with the presumption that a warrant based on probable cause is required before conducting a search of a suspect’s property. Probable cause requires a logical belief, supported by facts and circumstances, that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed or that evidence of a crime will be found at the location to be searched. Ideally, this means that a law enforcement officer must submit a request for a warrant, along with an affidavit setting forth the basis for the warrant, to a judge or magistrate for review and approval before conducting a search.
Exceptions to the Warrant Requirement
There are four important exceptions to the warrant requirement that allow the police to conduct a search and seizure without first obtaining a warrant, including:
- Consent. The most commonly used exception to the warrant requirement is consent. If you consent to a search of your home a warrant is not required. Not surprisingly, law enforcement officers will often go to great lengths to get a suspect to consent, including telling the suspect that a warrant is on the way (when it is not) or threatening arrest (when they have no legal reason to make an arrest).
- Incident to arrest. This applies if a police officer is at your home to serve a legitimate arrest warrant. In that case, a limited search may be conducted near the arrestee to ensure that the arrestee does not have weapons or contraband within reach. A search of your entire home is not justified using this exception.
- Plain view. If a law enforcement officer can see contraband in plain view when you open your door, the officer is no longer required to obtain a warrant.
- Emergency/hot pursuit. This exception was carved out for situations in which a police officer has a reasonable belief that a genuine, time-sensitive emergency is occurring that justifies entering the home. It may also apply if the officer is in “hot pursuit” of someone who has allegedly committed a crime and enters the home.
Defense Strategies When an Illegal Search and Seizure Occurred
Evidence obtained during an illegal search and seizure may be excluded, meaning it cannot be introduced and used against you at trial. An experienced illegal search and seizure defense attorney may challenge a search using several strategies, including:
- Failure to obtain a warrant. The prosecution has the burden of proving that an exception applies if the police searched without first obtaining a warrant.
- Lack of probable cause. The affidavit submitted with the warrant request may fail to satisfy the probable cause requirement.
- Exceeded the scope of the warrant. A warrant must specify the location to be searched and the scope of the search. If the police exceeded the scope, it may be an illegal search.
- Technical deficiencies. If a warrant has the wrong address on it, for example, it might be
Get Help from Experienced Orlando Illegal Search and Seizure Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a criminal offense involving what you believe may have been an illegal search and seizure, you need to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to discuss your legal options.
At Haas Law, our illegal search and seizure defense attorneys have the knowledge, experience, and commitment necessary to challenge an illegal search and seizure and make sure any evidence obtained during that search is inadmissible at trial.
Call us at 407-755-7675, chat with us online, or submit our online form today. Because we understand that time is of the essence when federal law enforcement authorities are investigating you, our calls are answered 24 hours a day, allowing you to schedule an appointment as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.