Search and seizure laws are intricate, but they also concern a few of the basic and fundamental rights granted to every United States citizen under the U.S. constitution, not to mention under the California law as well. A god understanding of the search and seizure laws is crucial to defending any case against you.
Essentially, search and seizure laws are enforced to protect the privacy of every United States citizen, including those of California. Police cannot arrest anyone they choose, or for any reason they wish. Police, prosecutors and other state and federal officials must receive permission from a judge to arrest someone, or they must have probable cause as defined by the legal code in order to arrest someone. The same is true if law enforcement or other officials wish to search a home or other property. They must obtain a search warrant, or have legal probable cause to search without a warrant.
Anyone who violates the search and seizure laws could drastically change the outcome of a case, no matter what the charges are. In fact, violating the search and seizure laws can get charges dismissed and any future potential to charge someone for the crime could be lost forever.
Because of my more than 25 years of experience as an illegal search and seizure attorney, I understand every right as granted by California law and by the constitution of the United States. I know how frustrating it can be for my clients when the people they are supposed to trust violate their privacy and the law simply to press charges for something they may not have even been guilty of doing.
In cases such as these, I conduct my own investigation and if I find that my clients’ rights have been trampled under search and seizure laws, I use all of my resources to get justice for that client, turning the case in our favor.
Can Law Enforcement Force a Search of My Car or Person?
If a police officer pulls you over, that officer must clearly state the reason for doing so. This is because police officers cannot pull over drivers without having probable cause that the driver broke a law. Probably cause can include;
- Driving with a broken taillight
- Driving over the limit
- Not stopping fully at a stop sign
- Turning without a blinker on
If these conditions exist, then the police officer has probable cause to pull over a driver. If after pulling a driver over, the officer views something in “plain sight,” that fives the officer a reason to think that a different crime was committed, or that the driver is about to commit another crime, then that officer might have cause to search you, your vehicle and anyone else inside the vehicle based on, “specific and articulable facts.”
On the other hand, if an officer pulls you over, but there is nothing in plain sight that is indicative that another crime was or is about to be committed, then that officer is not allowed to search you, anyone with you, or your car unless you give the officer permission to do so.
Car searches based on probable cause are extremely important to prosecuting drug trafficking charges because there are many officers who pull someone over and search their car claiming they had probable cause, but in reality did not, and the search was based on another factor, such as racial profiling. Searching a car or a person without probable cause is grounds for dismissal of the charges.
In cases in which officers search people, officers are only allowed by law to search you and areas with which you control – such as a backpack or purse if you are inside a store and are suspected of shoplifting. If the officer finds nothing in these areas, he or she cannot require a search of your car as well – your car was not in the immediate area of the initial probable cause and resulting search.
Laws about Searching Homes and Seizing Property
Just as police cannot pull you over or search your car without probable cause or a warrant, they cannot enter your home, apartment, or other dwelling, and cannot take anything from them without a valid warrant signed by a judge, or without probable cause. The only time an officer can enter your home without a warrant or probable cause is if the home, apartment, or dwelling owner gives them permission to do so.
Sometimes, officers without a valid warrant will knock on the door, and while talking with the person who opens it, look through the door to see if there is anything illegal in plain sight, which would give officers probable cause to force themselves inside.
Fortunately, defendants in which officers used the “knock and talk” tactic to arrest them or seize “evidence” often have the evidence thrown out because many judges find this tactic unconstitutional.
The only time an officer can enter your home, domicile, apartment or other dwelling without consent or probable cause to conduct a search and seize evidence is if they have a signed warrant. The warrant they have specifies specific items they are only allowed to take items as evidence if the item is listed on the warrant, or if the item is in an area that the officers could reasonably expect the evidence to be. Nothing can be collected that violates the provisions of the warrant, and if it is, it cannot be used against you.
The Patriot Act offers law enforcement a bit more leeway in terms of search and seizure, and allows officers to search various items randomly, such as backpacks, handbags, and other personal items at transportation hubs such as train stations, airports and subway stations. Even when no probable cause is present, courts have found these searches to be constitutional.
Protecting Your Constitutional Rights
Because of the “us versus them” mentality many officers experience, they tend to rationalize their own questionable behavior while trampling the rights of citizens simply because “they did something wrong,” even though there is no evidence or probable cause.
Because protection against illegal search and seizure is a right guaranteed to every citizen under the United States constitution, it is important that you understand the intricacies of the law, and protect your rights.
Any evidence obtained as the result of an illegal search and seizure is called “fruit of the poisonous tree,” and because it taints any evidence collected after the fact, illegally obtained evidence is typically thrown out. Any violation can result in evidence exclusion, and because there is a lack of evidence, charges are often dropped.
Contact me today for a confidential review of your case to see if any evidence was obtained illegally, and I will fight vigorously to get that evidence excluded.