Search and Seizure Law

What is Search and Seizure Law?

A police search may violate a person’s privacy. The purpose of a search is to discover potential evidence that may be seized by the police and later used against a defendant to prosecute them for committing a crime.

Legal Search & Illegal Search

When a police officer has probable cause to suspect a criminal offense, he or she has the right to question and search under certain conditions.  Ordinarily a warrant is required, but police may search without a warrant when exigent or emergency circumstances exist or in some circumstances, when police have probable cause.

Reasonable Search – Protective Frisk

Searches are legal without a warrant if a person gives his/her uncoerced consent to a search. If a weapon or any other potential evidence is in “plain view” after a legal investigatory stop, the police have the right to seize the evidence.  This evidence can be used at trial.

Reasonable Stop

If a police officer reasonably suspects criminal activity, or has been alerted to criminal activity, and has “reasonable suspicion,” then a stop is permissible. If a police officer observes a potential suspect and has reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigation, and believes they may be armed, the police officer can “pat-down” or engage in a protective frisk of the suspect to check for weapons. If any weapons are found, they can be seized and the suspect is subject to arrest.

The Fourth Amendment- Protecting your Privacy

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment protects the privacy of every individual, and prohibits illegal searches.  The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unlawful seizures.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution reads as the following:

“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.”

What Does the Fourth Amendment Protect?

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from:

  • Search of personal items like: luggage, vehicles, papers etc.
  • A police officer must have a warrant based on probable cause to search your home or other dwelling, except in certain exigent circumstances.  Cars, however, may be searched without a warrant, if probable cause exists.  
  • Unreasonable searches and seizures

When Does the Fourth Amendment Apply?

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals:

  • When the individual is arrested
  • When an individual is stopped by a police officer while in a car, walking down a street, or on other public or private property
  • When a police officer enters a person’s house/apartment/business, and places them under arrest
  • When a police officer confiscates or seizes personal property
  • What if My Fourth Amendment Rights Are Violated
  • If an individual’s rights are violated by an illegal search and/or seizure under the Fourth Amendment, any evidence derived from the illegal search cannot be used in court. It is suppressed.

How Eisenberg Law Offices (ELO) Can Help You

If you are charged under a criminal offense in Wisconsin, call an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney at ELO to represent you. Contact us for a free confidential consultation and let us help you fight for your rights.

EISENBERG LAW OFFICES

308 East Washington Avenue Madison,
WI 53703
(608) 256-8356

Eisenberg Law Offices, s.c.

Madison WI Attorneys since 1983

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