The police and law enforcement have the right to search a person’s home, business, vehicle, or other personal property. However, this right is not unlimited. California’s citizens have rights protecting them from unlawful searches and seizures performed by police overstepping their boundaries or acting criminally themselves. This applies to both state and federal law enforcement, like the police and the FBI.

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects us from unreasonable and illegal search and seizure. But understanding the difference is key. Knowing your rights is paramount. The difference between legal and illegal searches can determine who wins or loses their court cases.

What Makes a Search and Seizure Legal?

Typically, a legal search and seizure is only performed by law enforcement peace officers if they have obtained a search warrant from a judge. With a signed warrant, police and other law enforcement agencies do not need your consent to enter or search your property.

Additionally, if the property owner gives the police permission to perform a search, then no warrant is necessary. Also, if items are in plain sight, they cannot be protected from being searched as there is no apparent attempt to keep them private. Police may also search property if they believe there is probable cause to believe that someone may be at risk of harm.

When a warrant allows police entrance, please note that they are not permitted to act beyond the boundaries of that warrant. If the judge’s warrant says they may search your car, that does not necessarily mean they can also search your basement, for example.

What Makes for an Illegal Search and Seizure?

Though originally created to protect Americans from British soldiers, today the Fourth Amendment protects US citizens from unlawful and unreasonable search or seizure by government entities.

An illegal search or seizure is when a law enforcement agent acts without a warrant, without permission, and without probable cause. If evidence is discovered in an illegal search, that evidence may be thrown out in court.

In California, the law has made it illegal to seize property from the accused unless the property itself is relevant to the crime which was committed.

What Can You Do if You Believe Law Enforcement Illegally Searched?

If you have been illegally searched or had property unlawfully seized by state or federal agencies, you should reach out to a California criminal defense attorney without delay.

Together, you and your lawyer will build a defense that establishes the illegal search. Your defense lawyer could seek to have all evidence associated with that search thrown out and made inadmissible at trial. Contact our law firm at 949-494-7011 for legal assistance today.