Search & Seizure
The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unwarranted intrusions from the government. These intrusions come in the form of unreasonable searches and seizures. The Fourth Amendment is all about protecting your privacy.
“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.”
Searches and seizures are reasonable when there is probable cause to believe you have committed a crime, and in most circumstances, officers must possess a valid search warrant. Absent these requirements, the search and/or seizure is considered unreasonable and in violation of your Four Amendment rights. Certain circumstances present situations when a search and/or seizure is justified without a warrant. For instance in a “Terry Stop & Frisk,” an officer may conduct a warrantless pat-down of the outer layer of clothing of a suspect. This search is justified because of concerns for officer safety. See Terry v. Ohio for more information.
A seizure of a person can occur in two ways. One way is when law enforcement apply physical force, another way is by a show of authority. The test for whether a seizure has occurred is, whether a reasonable person would feel free to leave the encounter and go about their business. See United States v. Mendenhall for more information.
What is the Scope of the Fourth Amendment?
The protection of the Fourth Amendment only covers situations where there is a legitimate expectation of privacy in the place or item being searched. The U.S. Supreme Court has laid out a two-prong test to determine if there was an expectation of privacy.
- Did the person exhibit an actual (subjective) expectation of privacy?
- Is that person’s expectation reasonable within society?
For-example, if you are stopped by a police officer and the officers notices drugs laying in the passenger seat of the vehicle. For purposes of the Fourth Amendment there hasn’t been any search, because the drugs are in plain-view. “What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not subject of Fourth Amendment Protection.” See Katz v. United States.
When Does a Search Violate the Fourth Amendment?
If a court finds a search was unreasonable, any evidence collected as a result of that search is inadmissible for a criminal prosecution in a court of law. This legal principle is known as the exclusionary rule. Any subsequent evidence derived from the initial illegal search is also generally inadmissible in court, due to the principle known as the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. There are some exceptions to the exclusionary rule, which makes it important to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to discuss your own personal situation.
If you have been charged with a crime, and law enforcement subsequently seized evidence against you during a search, then various potential defenses may apply based on the circumstances of your case. Such potential defenses may include flaws with warrants, lack of probable cause, and others. If successfully argued, these defenses may result in the suppression of evidence seized by the State at trial, or even the dismissal of any criminal charges.
Fort Lauderdale’s Leading Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged or believe you may be charged with a criminal offense, an experienced criminal defense attorney is imperative. Kenneth Padowitz, P.A. aggressively handles all State and Federal criminal charges. Contact our law firm to discuss your situation. Our Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney will strategically develop a defense designed personally for you and your situation. Kenneth Padowitz, P.A. represents clients throughout Broward County and all of South Florida, including: Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Hallandale Beach, Weston, Hollywood, Davie, Plantation, Parkland, Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, and Coral Springs.