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What is an Illegal Search?

Oftentimes, evidence can be dismissed when it is found that the police searched a building illegally. A search is considered illegal if the police have no warrant, and they are not trying to arrest anyone. Police may enter a building for a search in the case of emergency circumstances–for example, a person calling for help–but this kind of search is extremely limited. If police perform an illegal search, none of the evidence found in that search may be used in court.

If you or a loved one suspects that a search was done illegally, contact an attorney at The Defense Group online or call us at 407-831-1956 for a free consultation. We are available 24 hours a day in case of emergency, and we are able to arrange appointments for nights or weekends.

“A lot of our defense work deals around the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. It’s whether or not you were stopped appropriately in your car, and whether or not they searched your car, or your house, or you with sufficient justification. And, with some frequency, we are able to properly defend those by finding that the police simply exceeded their authority.

Many police officers get confused. They forget that they’re law enforcement officers. They think they’re the law. And unless you’ve got a legal justification to stop someone in their car — the fact that it’s 3 am. and they’ve got dark windows and they’re driving in a bad part of town where you consider it to be a high drug area or whatever — doesn’t give you the right to stop them or rouse them and find out what they’re up to.

If someone comes to your house and they say, “Can we come in?” Never, ever invite the police into your home. You ask them at the doorway, “Do you have a warrant?” If the answer is no, you say, “Are you here to arrest me?” If the answer is no, say, “Thank you so much. I never talk to police or lawyers, without my lawyer. My lawyer’s not here, so we’re done. You all have a nice evening.”  If they say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.  No, we need to … , ”  “No, no.  You don’t need to ask me. You want to ask me. And I choose not to participate tonight, so you’ll just need to leave now.” “Well we’ll be back with a warrant.” “Great, come back with your warrant. You can search.”

The police frequently are so offended by your failure to cooperate, they’re going to come in anyhow. When they do, they’re going to lose the benefit of whatever evidence they find. Because if they come in without authority, we file what’s called a motion to suppress. It says, “Your Honor, they didn’t have the right to go in.  They didn’t have the right to search, and therefore they don’t have the right to the benefit of the evidence they found.” So it gets thrown out.  Now see if you can still make the charges stick without all the evidence.

Some police are bright enough to realize, “Wow. If we’re not going to get to convict them, why bother violating their rights and going on in?” Some get it better than others. But a large part of our practice is trying to determine whether or not they really had the right to go in the house. Did they have a search warrant? Probably okay.  If they don’t have a search warrant, are there what they call exigent circumstances?  In other words, the door’s open — there’s a 3 year old child wandering around in the front yard. It’s 3 am. And the neighbors heard screaming inside. You can probably go in to see if there’s anybody in there that’s hurt and bleeding. But once you’ve walked through the house and looked, generally to see if there’s any victims of a crime in there, you’re not entitled to open up the dresser drawer, or start going through the stuff in the closet.  You’re not likely to find a victim in the dresser drawer or in the coat pockets in the closet.  So, the scope of your search is limited by the emergency need to look there.”