Understanding Search and Seizure

The U.S. Constitution is there to protect the rights of its citizenry. One of these rights is that of privacy, and the provisions are found mainly in the Fourth Amendment, although some may also be found in other amendments. One of these provisions is the search-and-seizure in which the police have limited power to search an individual’s person, property, and effects and to seize any illegal goods such as weapons and drugs.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits all “unreasonable” searches and seizures by law enforcement. These are defined as searches and seizures where there is no probable cause and no warrant issued by a judge. In some instances, a warrant may not be necessary, such as when contraband is in plain view.

The Fourth Amendment is only applicable in a search-and-seizure if the defendant has a “legitimate expectation of privacy.” This usually refers to private property such as a home or personal effects such as a handbag, but it may also be applicable in public places such as a mall bathroom.

To determine if there has been a Fourth Amendment violation, the court establishes if the legitimate expectation of privacy applies in the absence of a valid search warrant. According to the website of criminal defense lawyers Kohler Hart Powell, SC, if this expectation exists, then any evidence collected in that particular search is excluded and may not be used against the defendant. This also includes any other evidence discovered or seized as the result of the earlier illegal search, the so-called “fruit of the poisonous tree.”

However, there are always exceptions to the rule. If the police officer has reason to suspect that an individual may be in possession of illegal goods, or if the illegal goods was in plain sight, then any evidence seized may be used as such in a court of law even in the absence of a search warrant.

If you have been charged with a crime as a result of an illegal search-and-seizure, you have a good chance of having your case dismissed. The help of a qualified lawyer can prove fundamental in this kind of cases.

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