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Defending against charges based on illegal search and seizure

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants issued, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be searched."

That is the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, providing a fundamental right to Americans: freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. Still, illegal search and seizure is a reality, and it happens more often than you might think.

Note, for example, that the amendment says that search warrants should provide a particular description of the place, persons or things to be searched. In other words, search warrants are limited in scope. If a warrant says specifically that police can search your garage, then the police do not automatically have the right to expand the search into your house unless the house is also specified in the warrant.

The police can expand the search, however, if they encounter evidence suggesting that more evidence of a crime can be found in a place outside the scope of the original warrant.

Note also that the Fourth Amendment states that probable cause is required for police to conduct a search or seizure. If you're pulled over by a police officer for a minor traffic violation, then the police officer does not automatically have the right to search you or your vehicle.

However, a police officer may ask for your consent to search you or your property, but you also have a right not to consent to the search; that is, if the officer doesn't have probable cause.

Unfortunately, many criminal charges result from illegal searches and seizures. Sometimes police officers make procedural mistakes, and sometimes officers brazenly violate people's rights.

In any case, if you have been charged with a crime after a search, then speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

For more on protecting the rights of the accused in San Luis Obispo, please see our criminal defense overview.

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Law Offices of Jere N. Sullivan, Jr.
1141 Pacific Street, Suite A
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Phone: 805-543-8869
Fax: 805-543-3210
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