Miami Illegal Search and Seizure
Protecting Your Fourth Amendment Right to Privacy
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from illegal search and seizure, but law enforcement may not respect your rights. If you believe your rights have been violated, you deserve legal representation.
The Hoffman Firm believes that your rights should be protected at all times. Our firm has been honored to advocate for our clients in Miami and the surrounding areas for over 20 years. Whether during arrest, investigation, or trial, our experienced team of legal professionals can protect your rights and advocate on your behalf.
Entrust your case to a team that cares. Call The Hoffman Firm at (305) 928-1669.
What Does the Fourth Amendment Say?
The Fourth Amendment states, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause […].”
The purpose of this amendment is the privacy of all citizens in the United States. This means that your house, property, and other assets cannot be investigated without probable cause – a legal principle prohibiting arrest unless there is sufficient evidence to suggest criminal activity.
Police cannot arrest you on suspicion alone. There must be physical or situational evidence to suggest criminal activity. For example, an officer cannot stop someone outside of a bank because they look suspicious. However, if a person is wearing a mask or face covering and carrying a bag full of money near the site of a bank robbery, it is reasonable to assume that they could be involved.
When probable cause meets search and seizure, several things must be in play:
- There must be evidence to support the need for a search warrant
- A judge must issue the warrant
- Law enforcement must have the warrant on hand before search or seizure can begin
Once the above criteria have been fulfilled, the police can perform a reasonable search and seizure, which is allowed under the Fourth Amendment.
Legitimate Expectation of Privacy
If there is reason to suspect that an unlawful search has occurred, the court must use a two-part test from the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether there was a legitimate expectation of privacy. In other words, did the individual searched expect to have their privacy protected.
To determine legitimate expectation of privacy, two questions must be answered:
- Did the person expect a degree of privacy?
- Is their expectation objectively reasonable – would anyone else say that their expectations were valid?
Another crucial consideration is societal norms. Legal search and seizure are allowed under the Constitution, which means you cannot take legal action if the evidence supports a search warrant. However, if a search is performed in a way that goes against societal norms, you may have a case.
For example, a person using a changing room at a clothing store does not expect to be spied on, and most people would agree with that expectation. That said, if police were to install a hidden camera in the changing room to search for evidence, it would be a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights.
It is also important to note that the Fourth Amendment only applies to police officers and government employees. If you visit a museum and have to go through a bag check, it is not a violation of your right to privacy – the museum’s security guards are performing their duties within the law.
Are Traffic Stops a Violation of the Fourth Amendment?
Some situations toe the line between the law and a violation of privacy, and DUI traffic stops are one of them. Generally, officers cannot search your car for drugs, alcohol, firearms, or other items during a stop unless there is probable cause to support the search.
For example, you are driving to the beach during a holiday weekend, but there is a checkpoint ahead. The officer asks you to roll down the window and show your ID. You cooperate, but the officer insists that you get out of the car for a search. This is not a lawful search because the officer has no grounds to suspect that you are driving drunk.
On the other hand, if your car smells strongly of alcohol or you display signs of intoxication or reaction to narcotics, the officer may have more reason to suspect that you might be under the influence. However, even if you are buzzed or even drunk, a search of your vehicle shouldn’t be performed unless there is a reason to believe that you are violating another law or that you may have drugs in your possession.
In both examples, law enforcement still needs probable cause to make an arrest. Without evidence, the police officer would be breaking the law and violating your Fourth Amendment rights.
What Happens When Police Violate the Fourth Amendment?
Unjust search and seizure claims may not derail an investigation entirely, but there are consequences for ignoring the Fourth Amendment.
The Exclusionary Rule
Under the Exclusionary Rule, any evidence seized due to an unlawful search cannot be used in court. Essentially this means that evidence obtained through illegal or unjust means is inadmissible and cannot be used to convict the accused. This rule does not lead to case dismissal, but if the only evidence in the case was from an illegal search, then there is a chance that the judge may dismiss it on those grounds.
Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine
Fruit from a poisonous tree is usually inedible, and the same concept applies to evidence derived from initial evidence illegally obtained. So, if an investigator produces evidence of a crime that is the basis for the prosecution’s case but was obtained unlawfully, then any additional evidence would be inadmissible in court.
Protect Your Future
If you believe you have been a victim of an illegal search or seizure, you should contact our attorney immediately. The Hoffman Firm has over two decades of experience with complicated illegal search and seizure cases. Our firm works tirelessly to investigate the case and hold investigators responsible for violating your rights.
Schedule your free initial consultation with our Miami illegal search and seizure attorney today.
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