Search and Seizures

During interactions with law enforcement officers, individuals often are concerned with their rights being violated such as their right to privacy during a search or seizure. Most individuals consider their home and personal items to be their private property and would be concerned with someone conducting a search. Furthermore, if a law enforcement officer is conducting a search that is considered unlawful, it can make an individual feel uneasy.

Searches and seizures are conducted by law enforcement officers when there is a valid belief that a crime is in the process of being committed or has been committed. Searches occur when a law enforcement officer investigates an individual’s home, vehicle, building, or personal items for evidence of a crime. Items can then be seized if it establishes that an unlawful offense has occurred. Arresting an individual can also constitute a search and seizure.

The Fourth Amendment provides that the right of individuals to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, should not be violated. Warrants should not be issued unless there is probable cause that is supported by affirmation that states the place to be searched and the individuals or items to be seized.

Probable cause is when there are facts within a police officer’s knowledge that give a police officer reasonable belief that an offense has been or is being committed, and evidence of the offense may be present in the place that is to be searched. There must be a reasonable belief, and if a search is conducted absent this belief or a warrant, the search is considered unreasonable. The court will look at the scope of the search or seizure and the circumstances surrounding it to determine if the search or seizure is unreasonable.

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable intrusions of their privacy, absent a reasonable suspicion or warrant. The amendment also includes protection from an arrest, absent probable cause. In order for a law enforcement officer to conduct a search of an individual’s home, the officer must have a warrant. Absent a warrant to search a home, the search will be considered an invasion of privacy that is protected by the Fourth Amendment. Any evidence that is seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment, must be excluded and is considered inadmissible in court.

There is an exception to vehicles, that allows a police officer to conduct a search without a warrant if probable cause exists and there is a belief that there is contraband or evidence of a crime in the vehicle. This reasonable belief includes the belief that an individual is armed and may be presently dangerous. A traffic stop must be limited to the amount of time that is reasonably necessary to address the purpose of the stop unless there is probable cause that another crime has occurred outside the purpose of the stop. Searches or seizures can also be conducted in certain situations which include police officer checkpoints that screen for driver’s license and vehicle registration violations, and sobriety checkpoints.

At King Law, there are attorneys throughout North and South Carolina who handle these types of cases and can represent you in this unique situation. Call our toll-free number at 888-748-5465 (KING) to request a consultation with one of these experienced attorneys.

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