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What Constitutes an Unlawful Search and Seizure?

If you have been stopped by the police while on the street or if you have a run-in with law enforcement on your private property, it is vital to know your rights. While the police have the authority and a responsibility to uphold the law, there are strict legal limits on their abilities and power. One such protection is written into the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment provides protections against unlawful searches and seizure of property.


At the heart of the matter, your Fourth Amendment rights are about privacy. If you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as inside your home or property, the police require a warrant or probable cause in order to conduct a search or take your things. An officer may not search a person, their home, or vehicle simply because they feel like it.

However, this also means that searches may be permitted and deemed lawful under certain circumstances, or when a person has no expectation of privacy, such as when out in public. For example, imagine that you are driving and the police pulled you over. The police may not demand to search your trunk without a valid legal reason. If however, there was an illegal substance sitting in plain view on the passenger's seat, the police may have probable cause to search your vehicle or seize property, arguing that no expectation of privacy existed. Additionally, the police may also be able to conduct a search if you provide your consent.

In the event law enforcement does conduct an unlawful search, any evidence obtained, seized or derived from the event may not be used directly against a defendant in a criminal case. These legal theories are known as the "exclusionary rule" and the "fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine." In some instances, evidence barred from the courtroom due to its illegal obtainment may be a deciding factor in a case.


Being thrown into the back of a police cruiser can fill you with fear, anxiety, and confusions. While it can be understandably difficult to know what may happen, you do not have to go through the legal world alone. At Haughey & Niehaus, we possess more than 25 years of legal experience and can provide 24-hour services to best help our clients. Our Warren and Butler County criminal defense attorneys can help you to understand your rights, your case, and your legal options.

Are you ready to get started on a hard-hitting defense? Call or request a free consultation online and speak with an attorney today.

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