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What Constitutes an Unreasonable Search and Seizure?

Apr 26, 2008
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is perhaps one of the most frequently litigated constitutional amendments in the courts. In its entirety, the Fourth Amendment states, "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."

The main purpose of the Fourth Amendment is to protect "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." The right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures is a right guaranteed to every American citizen. The point of this right is to limit the government from unnecessary intrusions into your rights as a free citizen.

An unreasonable search and seizure issue most often arises when law enforcement searches a car after a traffic stop. The question then becomes whether the officers had reasonable suspicion to stop the car in the first place and/or probable cause to search the vehicle. If the police have seized property obtained through an illegal vehicle search, the seizure of the property is considered unreasonable.

An unreasonable search and seizure can also occur when law enforcement seeks to search a person's home. In order for a search to be valid, the police must first obtain a warrant, which is supported by probable cause, and describes the place to be searched with particularity. If these requirements are not met, the defendant can petition the court to exclude the evidence at trial. The court will then determine if the police conformed to the requirements of the Fourth Amendment when obtaining the warrant and can order that the evidence not be allowed in trial under the exclusionary rule.

If the police search someone's property without a warrant, the search is considered unreasonable unless exigent circumstances existed at the time of the search. The burden is then placed on the prosecution to prove that the police believed that there was an imminent danger that required an immediate search. Examples of such danger include, gunshots, a person screaming, or fire emanating from inside a building. Courts have also held that destruction of physical evidence can provide the police justification to search property in order to prevent its destruction. If any of these reasons exist then the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement is not violated.

If you believe that you are the victim of an unconstitutional search then it is imperative you contact an attorney.
About the Author
Neil Lemons represents Teakell Law. For more information on unreasonable search and seizure and defense in the Dallas/Fort Worth area visit their website http://www.teakelllaw.com.
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