A defendant’s property can often be used as evidence against him in a criminal case. For example, a cell phone belonging to a defendant may contain incriminating text messages. Part of law enforcement’s investigation will include gathering this property so it can be used as evidence in the case. However, law enforcement must comply with the law when it comes to seizing property. When can police seize your property? Here’s what you should know:
Fourth Amendment Rights & Search Warrants
The Fourth Amendment provides protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. But, this means that law enforcement officers are permitted to conduct searches and seize assets when it is reasonable to do so.
For example, law enforcement can conduct a search of property and seize evidence discovered on the property if they have been given a search warrant. A judge will not issue a warrant unless law enforcement is able to show probable cause that a crime has been committed and that evidence can most likely be found at the location identified in the warrant.
Warrantless Searches and Seizures
But, warrantless searches and seizures can be conducted in certain situations. If there is no “legitimate expectation of privacy,” items can be seized without a warrant. For example, let’s say someone accidentally leaves a small bag of controlled substances on the hood of his car while it is parked in a public parking lot. The bag of controlled substances is in plain sight, and the person should not expect privacy when he is leaving items out in the open while in a public place. Therefore, the bag of controlled substances can be seized without a warrant since there is no legitimate expectation of privacy.
Officers also do not need a warrant in emergency situations. For this type of search and seizure to be legal, officers must be able to prove that the search needed to be conducted right away in order to prevent physical harm, the escape of the suspect, or the destruction of evidence.
Become familiar with your rights so you know when officers are legally permitted to seize your property. It’s important to note that any property that is illegally seized cannot be used as evidence in your case. For this reason, criminal defense attorneys closely analyze the manner in which searches and seizures were conducted to ensure they were legal.
Is your property being used as evidence against you? If so, seek legal representation from Reisch Law Firm today. Our criminal defense attorneys will fight to have evidence that was seized illegally thrown out to weaken the prosecution’s case. Schedule a free consultation today by calling 303-291-0555 or filling out this online form.