What is an illegal search and seizure?

Person being pulled over by police

"Illegal search and seizure" is a phrase one will often hear in conjunction with criminal law matters. What this refers to is a search or an arrest made in violation of a defendant's rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

"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 shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

What does this mean? It means that law enforcement may not conduct a search of a person or make an arrest without a lawful warrant or without probable cause. It also means that if a search warrant is issued that applies to a certain location or item to be searched for, law enforcement may not go beyond the scope of the warrant in an attempt to find and collect evidence. When a defendant is subjected to an unreasonable search and seizure, the evidence and/or information obtained through this unreasonable action may not be used as direct evidence against the defendant in criminal court proceedings. This includes any evidence discovered based upon unlawfully obtained evidence, under the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine.

An illegal search and/or seizure may turn an entire criminal case around, essentially eliminating the entire foundation of the prosecuting attorney's case against a defendant. If you would like more information on this particular topic or are interested in seeing how it may apply to your criminal investigation or charges, please do not hesitate to contact Hollywood criminal defense attorney Jonathan C. Rosen today to discuss the matter.

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