What is an illegal search and seizure in Florida?

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people from unreasonable searches by law enforcement. Whether police obtained evidence via an illegal search and seizure are one of the most important considerations in any criminal case. When police officers illegally search people or their property, any evidence or contraband they confiscate may be inadmissible in court.

If you have been charged with a crime in St. Petersburg, the defense lawyers at Goldman Wetzel can help you build a defense and review whether the situation points to an unlawful search and seizure. If your rights were, in fact, violated, we can file a motion to suppress the evidence against you. Call our office today at 727-828-3900 for free case evaluation.

What protections do people have against an illegal search and seizure?

The Fourth Amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The primarily objective of search and seizure law is to protect people’s right to privacy and from unreasonable governmental intrusions. The police only have a right to search you if:

  • They have a warrant;
  • The circumstances justify a search without a warrant; or
  • You consent to a search.

(Note: This amendment only applies to government agencies. Private security companies are not subject to the limitations. Security guards can search you without at a warrant and the evidence may still be admissible.)

Do search and seizure laws apply to my criminal case?

Search and seizure protections only apply to cases in which the defendant had a “legitimate expectation of privacy” at the time and place of the search. The U.S. Supreme Court provides a two-part test for determining whether a person had a legitimate expectation of privacy:

  1. Did the defendant really expect a degree of privacy?
  2. Does society accept that the defendant’s expectations were reasonable?

In other words, the person’s expectation of privacy has to be generally accepted by societal norms in order to be deemed reasonable. For instance, if police probed your purse on a train looking for contraband without due cause,

society would accept that you had a legitimate expectation of privacy (which the police violated). If, on the other hand, the policed pulled you over and found drugs laying on the backseat in the open, society may not be willing to say your privacy should be protected because it was in plain view.

Charged with a crime in St. Petersburg? Goldman Wetzel can help.

Any evidence the police obtained via illegal search and seizure (often referred to as “fruit of the poisonous tree”) is invalid. If we demonstrate illegal search and seizure in your case, it may weaken or even dismantle the state’s case.

If you are facing charges, call Goldman Wetzel to explore defenses. It is vital to hire an attorney who knows how to evaluate cases for violations of defendants’ rights and errors by law enforcement. Contact us today at 727-828-3900.