Law enforcement officers – both state and federal – are trained to enforce the law and keep the public safe. While performing their duties, however, these public servants are required to adhere to certain rules.
If law enforcement conducts a search and seizure on your property without a warrant or probable cause, their action may violate your civil rights. This is because the Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable government intrusion into your body or property.
Understanding search and seizure
Basically, search and seizure are two actions the police carry out when they suspect a crime. First, they search your property in pursuit of evidence. And when they locate it, they seize it for the purposes of building their case for your prosecution.
Simply put, the police can search and seize your property if:
- They have secured a warrant
- You have consented to the search
- They have probable cause
- They are executing an arrest
- The evidence in question is in plain view
So, when does a search and seizure become unlawful?
A search and seizure will likely be illegal if the police do not have a valid warrant. However, it is important to understand that a warrant is not always mandatory in an emergency situation. Also, a search and seizure can be illegal if it extends beyond the scope of the warrant.
To prove a crime and, thus, secure a conviction, the police and the prosecution need evidence that you indeed committed the crime. Because of this, they may occasionally be overzealous during the search.
If the police searched your home or vehicle, it is important to understand how to protect your civil rights.