Police officers have a very specific responsibility to the public. They need to be ready to intervene during a crime in progress. They also help investigate criminal activity so that they can arrest and help prosecute those who are responsible for genuine wrongdoing.
Unfortunately, it is very easy for those tasked with law enforcement responsibilities to abuse their authority and potentially violate an individual’s rights. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution specifically protects people in the United States from unreasonable searches and seizures. People have a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy when they are on their own property and not engaging in misconduct.
In some cases where police officers conduct illegal searches, those affected can fight back, possibly by preventing the inclusion of any evidence found during the search as part of the prosecutor’s case. When does a search conducted by the police become a violation of the law or someone’s rights?
When officers search without probable cause or permission
Whether an officer wants to pat someone down during an interaction in a park or look through someone’s vehicle, they have to follow the rules. For officers to conduct an impromptu search upon encountering an individual or showing up at their home, the situation typically needs to meet one of two standards.
The police officer either needs to get the individual’s permission to conduct a search, or they need to have probable cause to believe that there is a crime in progress. If the situation does not meet those standards, then the search may be illegal and the evidence gathered may not be usable in court.
When there are issues with a warrant
The other reason that an officer can search private property or a vehicle is that they have a warrant from a judge. However, warrants require a judge’s signature and accurate information about the location and scope of the search. Issues ranging from unsigned warrants to inaccurate information, like the wrong address on the warrant, might mean that the search police officers conducted was not actually a legal search.
Anyone who believes that they may have experienced an illegal search during an encounter with police officers may be able to use that issue as part of their defense strategy. Exploring every option for a criminal defense strategy with the assistance of an experienced legal professional could benefit those who are facing charges and worried about proving their innocence.