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What constitutes an illegal search and seizure?

On Behalf of | Jun 8, 2020 | Criminal Defense Process

The Constitution provides every American the same rights. The fourth amendment protects American citizens from illegal, invasive searches and seizures of items. Law enforcement can still legally search private property, but there are still scenarios in which a search is unlawful.

In Oregon, police raided a business with a warrant’s permission. The order permitted the seizure of paraphernalia related to drugs, such as plants or oils. When the police seized industrial hemp, the plaintiff sued for $2.5 million. Not following the permissions of a warrant is only one of the examples that qualify as an illegal search and seizure.

What makes a search illegal?

If law enforcement does not experience any of the following situations without a warrant, their search is illegal:

  • Crime in plain sight: if evidence like drugs or paraphernalia is in plain sight, an officer has the legal authority to search a vehicle or home.
  • A search related to an arrest: if an officer arrests someone, they may proceed to search the detained person’s immediate surroundings, like a car or their home, to collect evidence related to the arrest.
  • Consent: police can obtain verbal consent from a property owner to search their property. With this permission, an officer can legally search through the property like a home or car.
  • Emergency: if police are pursuing someone that fled into a residential area, the police may be able to enter a home without explicit consent or a warrant.

If the police have a warrant to search, they need to ensure that they would follow the specifications of the warrant to the letter. If police violate the warrant, it can make their search illegal.

Hold police accountable

If police conduct a search of private property, they are legally obligated to do things by the book. Without the legal authority to perform a search, police are committing an illegal search and seizure.