If you look hard enough, you’ll find that many criminal charges are based on evidence obtained in illegal searches and seizures. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, and this right to freedom from illegal search and seizure is a foundational right in America.
Many people don’t know that the Fourth Amendment also requires that search warrants be limited in scope. As the amendment states, a search warrant must describe particularly “the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” In other words, if a warrant specifies that police can search your vehicle, then the police do not automatically have a right to expand the search to your residence unless your residence is specifically listed in the warrant.
However, if the police find something in your car that suggests more evidence of a crime may exist in your residence, then the police may be authorized to search your home.
There is unfortunately a common misconception that just because a police officer pulls you over, the officer has a right to search you and your car. In reality, the Fourth Amendment says that police must have probable cause to search you or your property. Pulling you over for a broken tail light does not automatically give an officer the right to conduct a search.
You also do not have to consent to a search when an officer asks; that is, unless the officer has reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred. There’s more on that in one of our recent posts.
The bottom line is that unreasonable search and seizure is illegal, but far too many criminal cases are based on evidence seized in illegal searches.
To ensure that a violation of your rights doesn’t result in a conviction, speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
At The Law Offices of Joseph Lesniak, LLC, we represent criminal defense clients in Media, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding areas. For more on our areas of practice, please see our criminal defense overview.