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When Is a Search & Seizure Illegal?

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects all U.S. citizens from “unreasonable” search and seizures. This law protects the average person from a police officer conducting a search without a warrant. A warrant is a judge-issued order allowing law enforcement to search particular areas for evidence, and the court will only grant one when there is a probable cause to believe a crime has been or will be committed. There are only some circumstances where police can search and/or seize property without permission from the court.

For example, police may search and seize items or evidence when there is no legitimate expectation of privacy. If an officer sees a bag of white powder in the back of your car without needing to open the vehicle, he or she has probable cause to search the vehicle and seize the suspected contraband. However, if the bag of white powder is in your trunk, a police officer has no right to search your car because there is no way he or she could have seen it.

In other situations, police officers can conduct a search and seize certain items in order to ensure the safety of themselves and others or and prevent the destruction of evidence. These situations must create a sense of urgency so police officers feel getting a warrant might endanger innocent people or allow a suspect to destroy evidence.

Last, the only way a police officer can search your property without a warrant is if you give them permission to do so. If you allow law enforcement officers into your home, anything they see as potential evidence could be noted and sought later. For example, if a police officer asks to speak to you inside your home and, you allow the officer in, and he or she notices an a large bag of white powder substance in your living room, he or she will legally be able to confiscate the contraband.

In all other circumstances, officers searching without warrants are violating civil rights, and any evidence collected during this time may not be used against a suspect during a trial. Likewise, any evidence or information gathered from that illegally seized evidence can also be barred from use in a trial.

If you’re facing a criminal charge, talk to skilled Denver criminal defense attorney today. Our firm can offer you more than thirty years of legal experience.

Contact us at (303) 622-3281 for a no-cost consultation today!