An unlawful search and seizure can have a great impact on the outcome of your criminal case. The U.S Constitution outlines several protections for the citizens against government overreach. Specifically, the 4th Amendment protects Americans from unreasonable search and seizure, so law enforcement cannot search private property without a proper warrant or probable cause.
Here are three factors that can influence when a search and seizure exercise can be deemed unlawful:
1. When there was no search warrant
A warrantless search is not always illegal. Law enforcement can search your property without a warrant under certain exigent circumstances, and they may also conduct a limited warrantless search on your vehicle during a DUI stop for their own safety. However, a search that isn’t justified by either probable cause or exigent circumstances requires a warrant (absent your permission).
2. When there was no probable cause
In the absence of a valid search warrant, the police must have probable cause (a reasonable belief) that the suspect is connected to a crime to conduct a search and seizure. The probable cause varies depending on the circumstances at hand – but a police officer generally isn’t free to conduct a search just because they’re curious or don’t like your looks.
3. When there was no consent
When law enforcement does not have either a warrant or probable cause, they can only conduct a search if you allow them to do so. For instance, the officer can knock on your door and ask if it’s okay if they came in and searched your property. If you say refuse, they cannot push past you and search your property anyhow.
Knowing your legal options can help you effectively defend yourself when dealing with any criminal matter.