Lawyer's Center by Henry

« Back to Home

Legal Or Illegal? How To Tell When A Police Search Crosses The Line

Posted on

Were you, your home, or your car recently searched as part of a police investigation? Do you feel that the police violated your privacy and performed the search illegally? If you're facing criminal charges, this could be a very important point. If a court finds that police obtained evidence from an illegal search, then the court could throw that evidence out. However, the definitions of legal and illegal searches are somewhat subjective. One court may find a search illegal, while another may find it perfectly reasonable. Here are some of the things a court may consider when determining the legality of the search:

Did the police have a warrant? This is the first criteria that can establish a search's legality. If the police had a warrant, then it will be extremely difficult for you to challenge the search in court. The reason is simple. The police already made their case for the search in court when they got the warrant. If you ask a judge to declare the search illegal, then you are asking him or her to overrule another judge's prior ruling. The search would likely have to be egregious for the court to do that.

Even if police don't have a warrant, they can still conduct a search legally. These are the searches that are most commonly disputed in court. The court uses the following two-part test to determine whether a search was legal or illegal:

Did you have an expectation of privacy? The first question is whether you had a reasonable expectation of privacy when the search was conducted. For example, if you're in a public restroom, you wouldn't expect for police to be recording you. If you're in the privacy of your own home, you wouldn't expect police to record you without a warrant. However, if you're attending a sporting event, for example, then it's reasonable to assume that you'll have much less privacy than you would in your own home.

Would society agree with your privacy expectation? This is the more subjective part of the test. You may feel that you were due privacy. However, the court may feel that a reasonable member of society would disagree. For example, assume that an officer pulled you over and spotted an open beer can on the passenger floor of your car. You may say your car is private. However, the court may say that a reasonable person would disagree because the beer can was in plain view of the officer as he or she was doing their job.

There's clearly much room for discussion and debate in these definitions. It's important to discuss these matters with an experienced criminal lawyer. He or she could advise you of whether you have an argument and could then advance that argument in court. For more information, contact Davidson Law Center Inc. or a similar organization.