The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects you from unreasonable search and seizure, but what does that mean? Generally speaking, police will need to obtain a warrant prior to searching or taking anything from your home and car. However, there are exceptions to this requirement, particularly in emergency situations or when you consent to the search without a warrant.
If your property is searched and any item is taken without probable cause, a warrant, or your consent, then the authorities have conducted an unreasonable search and seizure.
Not all evidence found by authorities can be used in court, thanks to the exclusionary rule. If authorities unreasonably search you or your property and take any evidence, it can be excluded, which means that it cannot be used against you at trial. This includes not only evidence found during the unreasonable search and seizure, but also any evidence that the search leads to in other locations.
You will need to prove that the search was not lawful before evidence can be excluded. In order to help your attorney to prove this, you will need to fully document the events, including:
- Date, time, and location of the search
- How long authorities searched
- State of your property before and after the search
- Explanations and information offered to you by the authorities
- Copies of the warrant and any other paperwork you receive from authorities
- Whether you consented or objected to the search
This detailed account of the search and circumstances surrounding it will be useful to your attorney in efforts to exclude the evidence by arguing the legality of the search. Under South Carolina law, a warrant must list the place or person to be searched as well as what items the authorities are looking for. This is why it is essential to document where officers to search, since searching in a location not listed on the warrant can get the evidence excluded. However, authorities can seize items other than those listed on the warrant if they are illegal or appear to be evidence of a crime.
If officers ask to search your home, vehicle, property, or person, you should immediately ask for a copy of the search warrant. Officers are required to give you a copy if you ask for one but are not required to do so if you do not ask for it.
Even if you have nothing to hide, do not consent to a search or seizure without a warrant. Although it is possible to contest evidence gathered during a search you consented to, it is difficult, since you agreed to the search. Courts will generally allow this evidence to be presented unless authorities searched in an area you did not consent to, such as searching your home when you only consented to a search of your vehicle.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are asked to consent to a search or are approached with a search warrant, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. The attorneys at the David Aylor Law Offices will advise you in your communications with authorities as well as ensuring that all searches and seizures are properly authorized and documented.