In an instance when a law enforcement officer searches your home, car, or other property, you must understand what they can and cannot do by law. Their actions may be pivotal in defending against your criminal charges. Continue reading to learn your rights during a search and seizure and how one of the experienced New Jersey & Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers at The Vigilante Law Firm, P.C. can help you assess your case.
What is involved in a search and seizure?
First of all, you may be a target of a search and seizure if a law enforcement officer suspects you of committing a crime, so they “search” your property and “seize” any relevant evidence found in connection to the crime.
Most importantly, a law enforcement officer is only allowed to conduct reasonable searches, according to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. With that being said, the below criteria make up a reasonable search:
- A law enforcement officer has probable cause that evidence of a crime will be found on your property or otherwise in your possession.
- A law enforcement officer has obtained a warrant from a judge to execute the search of your property.
- A law enforcement officer has only entered the location that the warrant lists.
- A law enforcement officer has only searched for the items that the warrant lists.
Notably, a law enforcement officer may be allowed to expand their search beyond what is stated on the warrant if they spot obvious evidence of the crime in “plain view.”
What rights do I hold during a search and seizure?
If a law enforcement officer does not obtain a warrant first, their search must fall into a category in which a warrantless search is permitted. Or, they must obtain your consent to do so. With this, they are not allowed to search beyond the extent to which you consented. They are also not allowed to coerce or trick you into providing your consent.
With that being said, below are additional rights you hold as a subject of a search and seizure:
- You have the right to petition to dismiss the evidence a law enforcement officer obtained in an illegal search and seizure (i.e., exclusionary rule).
- You have the right to petition to dismiss the evidence a law enforcement officer obtained in an illegal search and seizure to find other evidence (i.e., fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine).
- You have the right to argue that a law enforcement officer was not allowed to search your vehicle, as they did not have reasonable suspicion that it contained evidence of a crime.
- You have the right to argue that a law enforcement officer was not allowed to stop and frisk you, as they did not have reasonable suspicion that you were involved in a criminal activity or that you were armed and dangerous.
You must act fast when building a strong legal defense against your criminal charges. So you should not wait too long before contacting one of the experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyers from The Vigilante Law Firm, P.C.