When it comes to crime, law enforcement, and criminal defense, one of the most important rights you have as an individual is your Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful searches and seizures. This Constitutional right protects all individuals from being unfairly targeted by law enforcement, protects your right to reasonable privacy, and can prove crucial in a defense case where law enforcement officers violated your rights.
As former police officers, our legal team at The Law Offices of Jarrod M. Wilfert know the rules and procedures law enforcement must follow when stopping, searching, and arresting individuals suspected of a crime. In the cases we handle, we investigate the circumstances surrounding law enforcement contact closely to ensure our clients' rights were not violated in any way. If they were, it can be make for a big break in the case, resulting in inadmissible evidence being tossed from court and a dismissal of the charges.
During a search and seizure, you have rights:
- Search – You are protected against unlawful searches. In order for a search to be lawful, law enforcement officers must have witnessed you committing a crime, possess a valid search warrant, or have probable cause. Probable cause is objective evidence gathered by an officer to justify their search. This may include seeing illegal drugs in plain view, for example, or noticing the smell of alcohol when stopping you in your vehicle. Without probable cause, they do not have the right to conduct a search.
- Seizure – Seizure in “search in seizure” may refer to the taking of your property following a search, or the seizure of your person (an arrest). To make an arrest, law enforcement officers must also have a valid warrant or probable cause based on their interaction with you and anything justification they have collected. If there is no warrant or probable cause, your arrest may have been unlawful.
There are some circumstances when searches may involve exceptions to the Fourth Amendment requirement of probable cause. This includes searches at airports, as well as searches at DUI checkpoints, as they are considered administrative protections for the benefit of public safety. Still, even when rare exceptions apply, officers of the law must abide by rules and laws.
If you believe a law enforcement officer may have violated your right to protection from an unlawful search or arrest, you have every right to raise that challenge in court. Our legal team is highly experienced in challenging the government's case against our clients, including cases involving unlawful searches and seizures. Contact us to discuss your case during a free evaluation.