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Attorney Arie Lipinski

What you can do if you have experienced an unlawful search and seizure

On Behalf of | Nov 10, 2022 | Criminal Defense

There are times when law enforcement officers have reason to believe that a person has committed a crime and that there may be evidence of that crime in their home or car. If the law enforcement officer has reason to suspect that something has occurred and that they may find something, they need to search the person’s premises and seize what they feel they need to seize in a legal manner. There is certainly a process that should take place with the appropriate, legal steps in such a situation.

If the police have conducted an unreasonable (unlawful) search and seizure, that means that they have done the following:

  • They have not come with a legal search warrant (with a judge’s or magistrate’s signature). The warrant is supposed to describe the person, place or thing(s) that are to be searched or seized.
  • Without a probable cause to suspect that the person, place or car contains evidence.
  • Extending the boundaries of authorized search and seizure.

It is important to understand that unreasonable search and seizure is unconstitutional because it violates the Fourth Amendment, which is supposed to protect individuals’ reasonable expectation of privacy against government officials.

How can you fight against unreasonable search and seizure?

If you have experienced an unreasonable search and seizure, the exclusionary rule may apply. The exclusionary rule excludes evidence that was obtained illegally from being used in court. However, the exclusionary rule only applies to criminal trials. For other court proceedings, such as grand jury proceedings, preliminary hearings, bail hearings and civil hearings, the exclusionary rule does not apply.

Who has qualified immunity?

Although the law enforcement officer may have performed an unreasonable search and seizure on your premises, they still have qualified immunity, which means that they will not face consequences. Qualified immunity protects people who work for the government when they do certain things that pertain to their job. If a law enforcement officer has qualified immunity, they are protected against anyone suing them personally.

With this type of immunity, the rule is the only recourse that the defendant has if the law enforcement officer has performed an unlawful search and seizure or has violated the defendant’s rights in some other way.

What are the exceptions of search and seizure without a warrant?

If a law enforcement officer has conducted a search and seizure without a warrant, there are certain specific instances when that is considered legal (or reasonable).

  • If a law enforcement officer is on the person’s premises or stops the person while they are driving for a legal reason and the officer notices something incriminating in plain view, the officer can seize that item, even if it is not on the list of items to be searched and seized.
  • All items that are exposed to the public can be searched and seized legally without a warrant.
  • If the officer must act quickly otherwise valuable evidence will be destroyed and there is no time to obtain a warrant, it is lawful to conduct the search and seizure without a warrant.
  • If an individual is suspected of fleeing the scene, the officer can search and arrest that person lawfully without a warrant.
  • If the law enforcement officer has cause to believe that there is evidence of a crime or contraband in the individual’s vehicle, the officer may be allowed to search the vehicle, including the trunk and luggage or any other containers that they find inside the vehicle.

Solid legal support from an Indianapolis, Indiana, criminal defense attorney

If you have been accused of a crime and you feel that your rights have been violated by law enforcement, the valuable advice of a criminal defense attorney may prove invaluable to your case. The attorney can walk you through the step of the process and ensure that you protect your rights at all times. Hopefully, your ordeal will end with an outcome that allows you to move on with your life.