Illegal Search and Seizure
Illegal search and seizure can occur when police fail to obtain a search warrant when one is legally necessary. Illegal search and seizure can occur when law enforcement officials fail to act in good faith during an investigation. When a search warrant is obtained, but the search unlawfully extends beyond the scope of search warrant provisions, this may also constitute an illegal search and seizure.
Citizens are protected against illegal search and seizure by the fourth amendment of the United States Constitution. This law expressly states that, ?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 objective of this fundamental provision is to protect citizens from illegal search and seizure while facilitating justice in the criminal system and protecting the public. Application and interpretation of this fundamental right is in a constant state of flux. Search and seizure laws are intricate and complex. Several search and seizure situations require the attainment of a search warrant, while others do not.
In general, a search warrant is required when an investigation would breech a person's right to privacy. A breech in privacy rights is determined by a person's expectation of privacy in a given context and society's affirmation of that expectation. If this is found to be true in a legal case, the investigation may be considered an illegal search and seizure. A search warrant may not be required in the following situations: a person consents to a search, the search accompanies an arrest, the search is performed to protect the public or prevent destruction of evidence, or during a hot pursuit of a criminal.
A search warrant expressly permits the search of a specific location, at a specific time, in order to seek specific tangibles or evidence. A search and seizure that extends beyond the scope of search warrant provisions may be considered an illegal search and seizure. There are exceptions to this rule as well. Police officers are responsible for conducting a search and seizure in accordance with good faith principles. Failure to do so may constitute an illegal search and seizure.
In 1961 the US Supreme Court established the ?exclusionary rule? stating that evidence from an illegal search cannot be used against a defendant in state or federal criminal prosecution. The ?fruit of the poisonous tree? doctrine states that when evidence from an illegal search and seizure is used to discover new evidence, that secondary evidence is also inadmissible in a criminal court. Illegal search and seizure evidence, however, is admissible when a judge decides a sentence following a conviction, when applied to a civil or deportation case, or when used by a prosecutor to attack the credibility of a witness during trial.
For more information on illegal search and seizure cases, you may wish to contact a well qualified and experienced attorney who can help determine your legal rights and options.
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