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What constitutes a legal search by the police?

On Behalf of | Jun 5, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

The constitution protects you from unlawful searches and seizures by law enforcement. However, many people are not aware of these rights when interacting with law enforcement. For instance, the police cannot pull you over and search your vehicle just because you are driving at night. If that’s their sole reason for searching your car, it could be an illegal search.

So, what amounts to a lawful search by the police?

Legal search and seizure requirements

The police need a search warrant to search you or your property if you have not consented to the search. The warrant needs to be valid in that law enforcement must show a judge that there is evidence that a crime has been committed or that you have broken the law. The judge must sign the warrant, which should indicate the area that will be searched and what the police are looking for.

Searches without a warrant

Certain exceptions exist where the police can legally carry out a search without a warrant. For instance, the police can lawfully search your vehicle if they have probable cause that a crime is being committed. Also, if the search is connected to a lawful arrest, like a pat-down after being arrested, it cannot be deemed unlawful.

Similarly, if a person’s life is in imminent danger or there is a serious threat to property damage, the police can conduct a search without a warrant. Items in plain view of the police and those available to the public do not require a warrant either.

What it means for your case

If the police obtained the evidence against you illegally, it might not be used against you in your case. The court may exclude it from trial proceeding through a petition to suppress evidence, and it could weaken the prosecution’s case against you.

However, evidence laws can be complex, and everything may not be as it seems. In addition, suppressing evidence is not so straightforward. When preparing your defense, it is advisable to seek qualified assistance, well-versed with the legal technicalities, to increase your chances of a desirable conclusion of your trial.