What Is an Illegal Search?

When law enforcement officers are investigating a crime they often conduct a search and seizure in an attempt to locate evidence of the crime they are investigating. While a search and seizure conducted by the police can be completely legal, law enforcement officers also overstep their legal bounds at times and conduct illegal searches and seizures. For the object of a search and seizure, it is therefore important to know the difference, raising the question “ What is an illegal search?

In the United States, the U.S. Constitution afford us a number of rights and liberties that are intended to create a free, fair, and just society. Most of those rights are found in the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, collectively known as the “Bill of Rights”. The right against illegal searches and seizures is found in the Fourth Amendment which states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,[a] 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 Fourth Amendment protects us against “unreasonable” searches and seizures. The Amendment itself goes on to say that no warrants shall be issued without probable cause. The Supreme Court has been required, over the years, to interpret the meaning of many aspects of the Constitution, including the Fourth Amendment. What the Court has held is that absent an exception, the Fourth Amendment means that a warrant is required before the police can conduct a search and that a law enforcement officer must show probable cause for the warrant in order to obtain the warrant.

Of course, there are many exceptions to the warrant requirement, many of which are based on the “expectation of privacy” held in the place to be searched and/or the need for officer safety. Your vehicle, for example, may be searched without a warrant if you are operating the vehicle on a public roadway; however, probable cause for the search is still required. You may be the subject of a “pat down” search for officer safety without first obtaining a warrant. Your home, however, retains a high level of protection with regard to a police search and seizure, meaning that a warrant is required to search your home in most instances.

If the police conduct a search and seizure that is found to be illegal, any evidence obtained during the search may be inadmissible at trial. For this reason, it is important that you never voluntarily consent to a search before consulting with an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney first. Moreover, if you were the subject of a search by law enforcement, consult with a criminal defense attorney to find out if the search was conducted illegally.

Contact the experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.

Stan Bennett
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