Illegal Search and Seizure

Illegal search and seizure is one of the most important parts of any criminal case. Unlike other counties where people do not have a right to privacy, the U.S. Constitution endows each of us with a right to privacy. This right exists evenly throughout this country and applies to every case prosecuted in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach.

In some criminal cases, such as trafficking in cocaine, search and seizure laws are almost always at issue when police investigators search a citizen’s private property for evidence. This includes searches of a person’s home, automobile, computer, or any other place where there is an expectation of privacy. Even though detectives may want to search your property to find evidence, the law does not allow them to do so without a warrant, the existence of exigent circumstances, or your permission.

When your privacy is unlawfully violated by an illegal search, a good criminal attorney will attack the prosecution’s case by asking the judge to exclude any evidence obtained from the illegal search. This request is called a “motion to suppress.”

It is also important to realize that your rights to privacy are the same whether you are a U.S. Citizen, a naturalized citizen, have a green card, or are an illegal alien. The law of this land applies everywhere and to all people.

The law is also applied evenly to all police officers and detectives. Whether your case was investigated by the Broward Sheriff’s Office, a local police department, the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, Miami-Dade Police, the FBI, or the DEA, every police officer, detective, and federal agent in this country must follow the same law.

Amongst lawyers and judges, illegally obtained evidence is called “fruit of the poisonous tree.” When a criminal defense lawyer files a motion to suppress with the court, a hearing is set before the assigned judge and the criminal defense lawyer will make arguments to the judge in support of his or her request to exclude any illegally obtained evidence. In most cases, witnesses will testify about the circumstances that led to the illegal search and the events that transpired during the search.

Ultimately, your criminal defense attorney should give serious consideration to any issue in your case that concerns search and seizure. When doing so, asking the following questions may help in evaluating your case:

  • Did the police have a search warrant before entering private property to conduct a search?
  • If a warrant was obtained prior to the search, was the warrant application based on current, reliable information?
  • Was the search warrant executed within a reasonable time after being issued by a judge?
  • If the police did not have a search warrant, did the occupants of the private property given consent to the search?
  • If so, did that person have the right to give such consent?
  • Was the consent broad and all encompassing or was it limited to a certain place or portion of a private property?
  • Was the person who gave consent threatened, coerced, or intimidated by police to give consent?
  • Was a written consent obtained or was it verbal?
  • Are there any witnesses other than police to the consent?
  • If the consent was written, was the form written in a language understood by the person giving the consent?
  • Was the person who signed the consent for able to read and write the language used on the consent form?
  • If the police conducted a search pursuant to a traffic stop, what was the reason for the traffic stop? Did the officer have reason to believe that a crime or traffic infraction had occurred, was occurring, or was about to occur?
  • If a person’s body was searched, was the search limited to a pat down or was it a strip search or body cavity search?
  • Was your body searched following an arrest or for officer safety following a traffic or investigatory stop?