Search and seizure is when law enforcement searches a person's property and confiscates any relevant evidence to a crime. Some countries, including the United States, have constitutional protections that provide citizens with the right not to be subjected to "unreasonable" search and seizure under the assumption everyone is entitled to a right to privacy.
In the United States, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects U.S. citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. This wording implies that, in certain circumstances, the police can override your privacy concerns and conduct a search of your person and any property you own or rent. However, they can only do this if the following things are true:
- Law enforcement has probable cause to believe you committed a crime, and they will find evidence of it on your property with a warrant from a judge
- The circumstances justify the search without a warrant first being issued
If law enforcement searches you or your property in a place where you generally expect some degree of privacy and this expectation is objectively reasonable, the search and seizure is unlawful. For example, most people generally consider a bathroom to be a private place. If law enforcement installs a camera in a bathroom in order to obtain evidence against you, this would be regarded as unlawful. However, if you're carrying an open bottle of alcohol in the car when a police officer pulls you over, your car wouldn't be considered a place with a reasonable expectation of privacy.
If any evidence against you was seized unlawfully, it is covered by the exclusionary rule. This rule indicates any evidence obtained illegally can't be used as direct evidence against a defendant in a criminal prosecution. Likewise, any additional evidence taken from the objects covered by the exclusionary rule can't be used to convict the defendant. This is called the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine.
However, even if the evidence was seized unlawfully, you might still face charges. If a prosecutor has enough other evidence to prove your guilt, the case won't be dismissed if certain evidence was illegally obtained. Additionally, even unlawfully obtained evidence can be considered by a judge when deciding on an appropriate sentence if you are convicted. It can also be admitted in civil and deportation cases. Make sure you are represented by a skilled lawyer.
Contact our experienced Florida criminal defense attorneys if you're being charged with a crime based on unlawful search and seizure. Musca Law has more than 150 years of collective legal experience to offer your case. Criminal charges can lead to some severe consequences, which is why you need an aggressive advocate to fight for your rights and your freedom. Trust our highly rated, tenacious, and trustworthy lawyers to exploit the weaknesses in the prosecution's case and develop a strategic defense for you. Call us at (888) 484-5057 or fill out our online form to schedule a free case consultation today.