When police are trying to gather evidence of a crime, they will often conduct searches to try to get proof of criminal activity. To do this, however, they have to follow clear procedures and refrain from violating privacy laws. That’s where search and seizure laws come into play. They protect Americans from illegal searches and seizures.
The Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is dedicated to preventing unreasonable searches and seizures that violate a person’s privacy without just cause. It states:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
This amendment is the basis for all search and seizure laws in the U.S. It does two main things. First, it protects you from police searches without your consent unless there is probable cause of a crime. Secondly, it reiterates your right to privacy.
How You Are Protected By Search and Seizure Laws During Criminal Proceedings
Search and seizure laws are incredibly important when you are suspected of a crime. They ensure that evidence can only be gathered against you according to proper proceedings. This means that:
- your home cannot be searched without a warrant except under very specific exigent circumstances, such as when there is probable cause that evidence of a crime is being destroyed
- your belongings are protected from search unless the officer has probable cause or evidence of a crime is in plain view
- you cannot be detained by police for questioning or arrested without probable cause that you are involved in a criminal act
- you are protected from searches and seizures of evidence in any place where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, including public bathrooms and other places generally expected to be private
It’s important to note that these protections go away if you voluntarily consent to a search. Any evidence seized during a search you agreed to can be used against you in court, even if you had no idea it was there or could be found. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of your Fourth Amendment rights and decline a search if asked—even if you have nothing to hide.
What If I Am the Victim of an Illegal Search and Seizure
Unfortunately, sometimes police conduct searches and seize evidence in violation of the Fourth Amendment and other search and seizure laws. In these cases, you can be a victim of an illegal search and seizure, even possibly arrested for a crime based on the illegally obtained evidence. Luckily, you have legal recourse based on two provisions if you are such a victim.
- The illegally obtained evidence can’t be used in court. Under what is known as the exclusionary rule, any evidence found during an unreasonable search cannot be used against you in court. This means that you are still protected from the result of this infringement on your privacy, even if evidence is found that could hurt you in criminal proceedings.
- Any additional evidence derived from the initial illegally obtained evidence also can’t be used in court. This is referred to as “fruit of the poisonous tree,” and that means that any evidence found only because of the results of an illegal search or seizure also can’t be used against you.
While these can’t undo the invasion of your privacy, they can help protect you as a defendant. When a Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer can prove that evidence against you was gathered during an illegal search, you have a better chance of winning a case by excluding it. They may even be able to get the charges dropped altogether, depending on what other evidence may be used in the case.
How a Cincinnati Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help Protect You from Illegal Searches
If you are facing criminal charges, call a Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer right away to help protect your rights. They will be able to ensure no future illegal searches can occur and make sure that any searches you were already subjected to were illegal. They will even fight vigorously against the basis of searches that have happened and work to get unfair evidence excluded.
Call experienced Cincinnati criminal defense attorney Brad Groene at Luftman, Heck, and Associates right away at to set up a free consultation on your case. Attorney Groene represents clients in Hamilton County and all surrounding counties in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
He will examine the sources of all evidence against you and determine if any illegal searches or seizures occurred. As your lawyer, he will never stop fighting until you get the justice that you deserve.