To protect citizens from unlawful persecution and preserve their privacy, the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits unlawful searches and seizures. Police officers are human, and they sometimes make mistakes or become overzealous when obtaining evidence in their cases. Criminal cases that include fraudulent evidence are not indefensible.
Because evidence is crucial when it comes to the criminal justice system, law enforcement must follow proper protocol to obtain it. Evidence that law enforcement secures from unlawful searches and seizures may become inadmissible if the defendant can prove there was insufficient authority via a motion to suppress.
Factors that impact a search and seizure
The decision to obtain evidence via search and seizure must come from a judge. A valid search and seizure writ must include the judge’s signature a description of the premises and how they and the people inside of them are to be searched. The warrant must also contain the names/description of individuals or items that are to be obtained from the search.
Not all police investigations require warrants to obtain evidence. Certain issues do not require law enforcement officers to have a warrant before searching or seizing property.
- Evidence that is in an officer’s line of sight
- Potential offender gives consent to search
- Motor vehicle during a traffic stop
Bear in mind that law enforcement must have the right to access or enter the premises or place that the search for evidence is taking place in. For example, an officer cannot lawfully enter a person’s home without a valid warrant or their permission, unless there is a crime going on or they have probable cause. There are exceptions.