What Constitutes Illegal Search and Seizure?

The US Constitution protects citizens from unlawful searches and seizures, but unfortunately, police officers don’t always follow the rules and sometimes violate people’s constitutional rights. If you’re facing criminal charges, whether misdemeanor or felony and believe the police conducted an illegal search and seizure, you can contest the procedures in court.

With the help of defense advocates in Seattle, you can show how police violated your constitutional rights. The Fourth Amendment stipulates that if a police officer requests to search your person or property, you can deny their request, and they should respect your decision unless under exceptional circumstances.

If police officers disregard your refusal for a search and proceed without consent, a valid warrant, or probable cause, the search will likely be unlawful or illegal. Your defense lawyers can contest the search and any evidence the officers obtained.

What if the Police have a Search Warrant?

If police officers have a search warrant, it must be valid. The law requires that a police officer file a search warrant in good faith, meaning they must have reliable information that shows probable cause to search. Seattle criminal justice attorneys also explain that a judge must sign the warrant, explicitly stating the place to search and the evidence to look for.

However, even with a valid search warrant, police officers can’t search wherever they want. For example, if the warrant allows them to search your car, they can’t search your house. Nonetheless, they can search outside the warrant’s scope and seize evidence if the items are in plain view. They can also act to preserve evidence.

Are the Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirement?

The law has provisions for situations where law enforcement officers can conduct lawful searches and seizures. Some exceptions to the warrant requirements are:

  • Consent: The procedure is deemed legal if you consent to a search without a warrant. However, criminal justice lawyers in Seattle say you’re never required to consent to a search on your person, home, or car.
  • Plain view: Law enforcement officers can conduct a lawful search and seizure if you commit a crime in their view or if the evidence is somewhere they can see it. For example, if you’re taking drugs in your car and the police can see the drugs through the window, they don’t need a warrant to search your person or car.
  • Exceptional circumstances: Police officers don’t need a search warrant when exigent circumstances justify the search. For example, they can conduct a warrantless search if they reasonably believe not doing so would pose a danger to other people, lead to the destruction of evidence, or enable the suspect to escape.
  • Probable cause: If the officers have probable cause to believe you committed an offense and that they can find evidence, they can search without a warrant.

After your arrest, it is in your best interests to contact experienced Seattle criminal justice lawyers as soon as possible. Explain the circumstances of the arrest, and they can evaluate the case for loopholes that indicate unlawful search and seizure. If they find that your rights were violated, they can contest the search and seizure in court to enhance a favorable outcome of the case.

Can I Use Illegal Search and Seizure in My Defense?

If your Seattle criminal defense attorneys determine that the law enforcers conducted an illegal search, they can put up a solid defense to show that your rights were violated. They can also fight to show why the evidence should not be admissible. They use the following arguments to defend you:

Lack of Probable Cause

When applying for a search warrant, police officers provide an affidavit, appear before a magistrate or judge, and demonstrate probable cause for conducting a search. Probable cause is established by showing the following:

  • The police officer is aware of specific facts and circumstances
  • The facts and circumstances are from a reasonably trustworthy source
  • Based on the facts, a reasonable person would believe a crime has been committed or is about to happen

Aggressive criminal justice attorneys can poke holes in one or all of these elements to justify that the law enforcers lacked probable cause to conduct a search or seize evidence.

Lack of Good Faith

Your lawyers can argue that the police officers did not obtain the search warrant in good faith, so the warrant is defective. A warrant becomes defective if it fails to meet the conditions above. If you successfully prove the police willfully lied or the affidavit contains incorrect statements or omits material facts, the court may dismiss the evidence.

Invasion of Privacy

The Fourth Amendment protects you in places where you can reasonably expect privacy. Courts hold that this includes anything you have on your person, home, or property. Your lawyers can cite invasion of privacy and violation of this law if they deem that the police acted outside of their scope of work or employed unethical search and seizure procedures.

Challenging Illegal Search and Seizure with the Help of Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyers

Police officers should uphold your rights as provided for in the Fourth Amendment when conducting search and seizure. Unfortunately, sometimes, they can overstep their duties, obtain evidence illegally, and violate your constitutional rights. If this happens during an arrest for a criminal offense, let skilled criminal justice lawyers in Seattle know immediately.

They can evaluate the circumstances of the case to determine if the police followed legal procedure. If they establish any illegality, they can contest it in court in your defense. The lawyers at the Law Offices of Kevin Trombold can walk you through this challenging journey to protect your rights. Call us at 877-388-8555 to schedule a FREE case consultation.