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Understanding Your Rights against an Illegal Search

 Posted on March 27, 2015 in Criminal defense lawyer

search warrant, illegal search, Illinois Criminal Defense AttorneyThe Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizures of their property by law enforcement. In most cases, police are required to obtain a warrant before they are allowed to search. However, the amendment does not guarantee against all search and seizures without a warrant. There are situations where the courts will allow evidence obtained without a warrant to be admitted.

Exceptions to a warrantless search of a person’s home are as follows:

  • The police have been given permission to search;
  • The person has already been arrested, and the house has been deemed in the person’s control. This is legally referred to as “search incident to arrest (SITA)”;
  • The evidence is in plain sight; and
  • The police officer feels there is probable cause to search. The legal definition and standard used for probable cause is “a reasonable amount of suspicion, supported by circumstances sufficiently strong to justify a prudent and cautious person's belief that certain facts are probably true.”

Exceptions to a warrantless search of a person’s vehicle include:

  • If an officer has probable cause there is evidence of criminal activity inside a vehicle, the officer can search the vehicle without a warrant;
  • An officer may do a pat down of a driver and/or any passengers in a vehicle that has been stopped for suspicion of a traffic violation;
  • Law enforcement may use a narcotics detection dog to walk around the outside of a vehicle that has been stopped for a traffic violation. A warrant is not needed; and
  • Law enforcement who are located on international borders may conduct searches without a warrant.

Not only is any evidence directly obtained without a valid search warrant inadmissible, but it also applies to any evidence subsequently obtained as a result of information gathered in an illegal search.

For example, an officer searches a person’s home without a warrant and finds a key to a storage unit. The police suspect there is evidence of criminal activity contained in the storage unit and they obtain a warrant. In the unit, they find stolen property. However, that evidence of stolen property would be considered tainted and not admissible in court since the original officer who found the key did not have a warrant to search the premises. This is known as the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine.

If you have been arrested as a result of an illegal search by police, contact an experienced Lake County criminal defense attorney to defend you and protect your Constitutional rights.

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