Philadelphia Illegal Search and Seizure Lawyers
The police have broad authority when it comes to conducting criminal investigations. This authority includes searching private spaces like your home or office. The police can also seize any evidence they find during their searches and use it against you in a subsequent trial. As broad as this power to conduct searches and seizures may seem, there are limitations: the police need probable cause and a valid warrant before executing a search or seizure. If the police exceed these limitations – minus some exceptions – their actions may be illegal, and any evidence they obtain should be suppressed.
It can be hard to tell if a search is legal or not until long after it happens. Even if you believe the police do not have the power to conduct a search, trying to stop them could land you in more trouble. While the police must adhere to the rule requiring search warrants, there are also numerous exceptions. Knowing when these exceptions apply and when they do not can be difficult. You need an experienced attorney for guidance.
If you were the subject of a search by law enforcement and you had property taken from you, you should consult with a lawyer right away. The police may not conduct their criminal investigation at the cost of your rights. Our Philadelphia illegal search and seizure lawyers will help you fight your charges and suppress any illegal evidence. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 to schedule a free, confidential legal consultation.
Search Warrant Requirements in Philadelphia
Before conducting a search or seizing evidence, the authorities must obtain a valid warrant authorizing their actions. The warrant requirement serves to prevent overreach by the police, who might otherwise conduct searches and seizures without probable cause and without oversight by the courts.
Obtaining a warrant is not meant to be easy. The police must seek a warrant from an impartial judge or magistrate. They must also present some showing of sufficient probable cause that a crime has occurred and that evidence of that crime is likely to be found at a specific location. Probable cause must be reasonable and articulable; it cannot be based on a mere hunch or gut feeling.
Warrants also must be specific. Warrants are not tickets allowing law enforcement to do whatever they want. A search warrant must contain detailed information about the location to be searched and the evidence to be found there. If a certain area is not mentioned, it is off-limits to the police. For example, if a warrant allows the police to search your home, but the warrant does not mention the shed in your backyard, the shed is off-limits, and the police will need another warrant to search the shed.
The police must not only obtain a warrant before searching, but they must also abide by the limits of the warrant. A valid search can quickly become illegal if law enforcement exceeds the bounds of the warrant. Call our Philadelphia illegal search and seizure attorneys for help with your case.
Exceptions for Search Warrant Requirements in Philadelphia
The warrant requirement for searches and seizures by the police is not totally inflexible. Sometimes circumstances permit the police to circumvent the warrant requirement, at least to some extent. If an exception to the warrant rule applies in your case, the actions of the police might not be illegal even if no warrant was used.
The police are permitted to conduct a search or seizure under exigent or emergency circumstances. For example, if the police are in hot pursuit of a dangerous suspect who then tries to in their home, the police could enter the home and conduct a sweep of the premises to find the suspect. In addition, if the police believe that evidence is in danger of being lost or destroyed if they do not seize it immediately, they may enter a building to do so.
Vehicle searches are often tricky to navigate. Many vehicles are searched without a warrant after the police arrest the driver and have the vehicle towed. The search is not necessarily to find evidence but to take an inventory of the vehicle’s contents while it is in police custody. In some cases, illegal contraband is found during an inventory search and can be used against the driver.
Warrants are also not needed when evidence or contraband is in plain view of the police. For example, if the police are inside your home and you have baggies of cocaine on your dining room table, the police can seize it without getting a warrant first. A search is not necessary if the evidence is not hidden. However, the police must be lawfully present for the plain view exception to apply. If you invited the officer in, they are lawfully present. If the officer broke in while you were out, their presence is unlawful, and the plain view rule will not work.
There are many more exceptions to the warrant requirement than those mentioned here. Call our Philadelphia illegal search and seizure attorneys to discuss your case and determine if an exception applies.
Challenging an Illegal Search and Seizure in Philadelphia
If you were the victim of an illegal search by the police, we can take action to prevent the prosecutor from using the illegally seized evidence against you. To be admitted in court, the evidence must meet numerous standards. One such standard is that it must be legally obtained. If the police violated your rights by conducting an illegal search, any seized evidence is tainted and cannot be used.
Tainted evidence may be kept out of trial through a pretrial motion to suppress. The motion is filed before the trial begins and the judge will decide if the evidence is good or bad. If we are successful, the evidence will be forbidden from even being mentioned at trial. However, if we are unsuccessful, we can appeal the evidentiary issue should you be convicted.
Our Philadelphia illegal search and seizure lawyers have the skills and experience to suppress any illegal evidence in your case. Call us for help today.
Call Our Philadelphia Illegal Search and Seizure Lawyers
If you were the victim of an unlawful search or seizure, our legal team can help you make the situation right. Our Philadelphia illegal search and seizure attorneys will identify what made a search illegal and work to suppress the evidence. Schedule a legal consultation at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long by calling (215) 302-0171.