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Illegal search/seizures and your Fourth Amendment rights

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2023 | Drug Charges |

Search and seizures performed by Iowa law enforcement officials involve searching or taking possession of someone’s property. The property can include real estate, personal belongings, data and other items.

Law enforcement typically takes these actions while maintaining law and order, but if done without a warrant or illegally, they can infringe on a person’s constitutional rights. The following situations describe conditions for illegal search and seizures.

No warrant

If a law enforcement official has no warrant or probable cause, their search or seizure is illegal. If the officer conducts a search without reasonable cause or becomes overly intrusive during a search, these actions could be considered illegal, unreasonable searches.

If an officer engages in a search due to racial profiling, targeting individuals based on their ethnicity or race, this also qualifies as an illegal search or seizure.

Exceeding the search scope

Even if a law enforcement officer has a warrant, they have limited scope for their search according to the terms dictated in the warrant. For example, an officer cannot legally seize a computer if the warrant specifies searching for drugs.

However, in searches relating to drug crimes, if contraband is easily visible to an officer standing outside the front door of an apartment, the doctrine of “plain view” says the officer did not perform an illegal search or breach an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights by discovering and seizing the contraband.

Giving consent

A search and seizure are legal if a person consents without the officer obtaining a warrant. However, the person must have given consent freely and must have the authority to provide consent. For example, an individual cannot give legal consent for an officer to search a neighbor’s home that does not belong to them.

Poisoning the evidence

The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine dictates that if an officer obtains evidence illegally, it will “poison” or make any other evidence obtained using the original illegal evidence inadmissible.

In this scenario, a case could be dismissed due to the inadmissible evidence. However, an officer could find an exception to the exclusionary rule or have other evidence to support convicting the individual.

Awareness of legal and illegal search and seizure differences can help you understand and protect your Fourth Amendment rights.



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