What is Considered an Unlawful Search and Seizure?

The United States Constitution protects the personal privacy of citizens through the Fourth Amendment, deeming unreasonable government intrusions into their persons, homes, businesses, and property unconstitutional, and allowing interference only under limited circumstances. Law enforcement is expected to observe a number of rules when engaging in a search and seizure. Failing to do so will result in the illegally obtained evidence from being used against you in court.

When is an Investigation a Search?

To determine whether or not a police investigation is a search, the court will ask the following questions:

  • Does the person whose home or property was being investigated or search have an expectation of privacy?
  • Is the person’s expectation of privacy reasonable?

If a court determines that the investigation intruded an individual’s expectation of privacy, it will be considered a search and unlawful, according to the Fourth Amendment.

What the Fourth Amendment Protects

The Fourth Amendment offers a number of protections, which includes:

  • Protection against a law enforcement officer’s physical apprehension of a person
  • Protection against police searches and items such as an individual’s person, clothing, purse, luggage, automobile, residence, hotel, or place of business when he or she has an expectation of privacy

The protection provided to individuals depends on the nature of the arrest or detention, characteristics of the property, and the circumstances of the case.

When Does it Apply?

The Fourth Amendment does not offer blanket protection for any and all circumstances. Here are some of the situations in which it applies:

  • You are stopped for police questioning while taking a walk down the street.
  • You are pulled over for a minor traffic infraction, such as a busted tail light, and the police officer decides to search your trunk and the inside of your car.
  • Law enforcement enters your home to arrest you.
  • Law enforcement enters your apartment to search for evidence of a crime.
  • Law enforcement enters your place of business to search for evidence of a crime.
  • Your personal property or vehicle are confiscated and under police control.

These are just a handful of examples. There are many other scenarios in which the Fourth Amendment protects you against unlawful searches and seizures. Generally, a police officer is not allowed to search or seize your property unless he or she has a valid search warrant, a valid arrest warrant, or a probable cause and reason to believe you have committed a crime.

What Does a Warrant Allow Law Enforcement Officers to Do?

Search warrants give police officers the legal authority to enter private property without the permission of the owner in order to search for evidence. A search warrant does not give law enforcement officers carte blanche to search every inch of the premises, unless that is what was listed in the search warrant. Typically, only specific places will be listed in a search warrant. For example, police officers might have permission to search a home, but if the guest house and vehicles are not included in the search warrant, they cannot be legally searched.

There are some exceptions in which police might be able to expand their search beyond the scope of search warrant’s limits. For example, if they need to ensure their safety or the safety of others, they can widen their search to secure the premises. If there is evidence left in plain view, or their initial search leads them to believe there is more to be found in other locations on the property, they might also be able to expand their search.

What Can I Do if My Fourth Amendment Rights Are Violated?

If your Fourth Amendment rights are violated and a search or seizure is found to be unlawful, the evidence obtained during this violation will likely be left out of a criminal case. For example, if an arrest violated the Fourth Amendment due to a lack of probable cause or a valid search warrant, any evidence law enforcement secured, including a confession, will be left out of the case.

Such cases are not always straightforward, however, so it is crucial to obtain skilled legal representation as soon as possible to ensure your rights are protected.

Dallas Criminal Defense Attorneys

Not everyone who is charged with a crime is guilty and, at the end of the day, we are all still human beings and deserve to be treated as such. At Crain Lewis Brogdon, LLP, our Dallas-based criminal defense attorneys take the responsibility of defending individuals against criminal charges seriously. Our experienced attorneys handle a wide variety of criminal charges, including drug crimes, internet crimes, federal crimes, theft and burglary, sex crimes, violent crimes, probation violations, and more. We will protect your rights and ensure you are not further violated by the criminal justice system if you or your property was illegally searched.

For more than 20 years, our Dallas attorneys have acted as trusted legal advocates for our clients, allowing their voices to be heard in court. Attorney Chris Lewis has personally handled over 200 jury trials and achieved numerous dismissals and countless favorable plea agreements. With our track record of success, you can be confident in our firm’s ability to handle your case and obtain the best possible outcome on your behalf.

Get started on your case and contact Crain Lewis Brogdon, LLP today at (214) 301-5007 for a free consultation with a skilled legal member of our team.


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