Illegal search and seizure is not an uncommon occurrence. What is common, however, are victims of illegal search and seizure not knowing their rights, and thereby failing to take action to protect themselves after an illegal search and seizure occurred. If believe that you are the victim of an illegal search and seizure, you should contact an attorney immediately.
What an Attorney Will Do
An attorney’s job is prove that police misconduct of some sort occurred (if, in fact, it did occur) in order to have evidence that was collected against you during an illegal search and seizure dismissed. In order to do this, an attorney will open a thorough investigation into your case and the illegal search. This might include recording your testimony, the testimony of any witnesses, and even directly questioning officers who performed the search. The latter is very important; direct questioning of officers can help to establish whether or not the officers had any probable cause at the time of search without a warrant.
What Happens if the Search is Found to Be Illegal?
If your attorney can prove that the search and seizure was in fact illegal, you may have the charges against you dropped or evidence against you dismissed. However, it does not always work out this way. In fact, in a recent Supreme Court decision – Utah v. Strieff – the highest court in the land ruled that despite the fact that a police officer illegally stopped and searched a man, the illegality of the search did not prevent evidence obtained from that search to be used against him. The case has been called an assault on the Fourth Amendment, and shows that the rights of those accused of crimes are often infringed upon.
Regardless, however, an attorney can still aid you in building a case and can fight on your behalf to have evidence against you thrown out of court. While there is no guarantee that working with a criminal defense attorney will prevent you from being convicted, your chances on your own are much worse.
What to Do Following an Illegal Search
If you believe that an illegal search has occurred, the first thing that you need to do is remain calm and respectful towards police officers, even if they are infringing upon your Constitutional rights. While you should refuse the search, do so respectfully – do not give the police officers any potential ammunition against you.
Take down the names and badge numbers of any officers involved in the illegal search. Also take down thorough notes about details of the search, including what the officers said to you, how many officers were involved, what parts of your home were searched, and whether or not anything was seized. Then, contact an attorney immediately. Keep in mind that in addition to having criminal charges or evidence in a criminal case against you (that was seized illegally) dismissed, you may also have a civil suit against the officers, by which you may recover financial compensation.