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When Can Police Legally Search My Person or Property?

Posted on : June 8, 2021, By:  Tom Kokonowski, Esq.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution was inserted to limit the authority that police and government agents had over a citizen’s right to simple privacy. According to constitutional law, law enforcement officers may not search a person or their property unless they have enough grounds on which to do so. 

It’s crucial to understand how evidence is regarded in an American court of law as a result of the Fourth Amendment, especially if you’ve been arrested. Here’s what you should know and how to obtain the legal help you need. 

When a Police Search Isn’t Legal 

An unlawful or unjustified search happens when local or federal authorities search a person’s property without sufficient justification.

As an example, suppose someone was pulled over for speeding on their way to work. Usually, this would only result in the issuance of a ticket and a fine. However, if the police decide to search the car without enough cause, any evidence that is obtained may not be used against the defendant. If law enforcement officers don’t have probable cause and can’t get a warrant, they cannot legally conduct a search.

When It Is  

Under the following circumstances, police officers can conduct legal searches: 

  • If there’s enough probable cause to justify a search 
  • If a search warrant was issued 
  • If there are unique or unusual circumstances 
  • If the defendant gave permission when asked 

Only government authority figures are bound by the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Private agents, security firms, retail establishments, and other private organizations do not have to meet these criteria in order to perform a legal search. If there is evidence of a crime or a potential crime in plain sight, police do not need a warrant to seize it or conduct a search.  

How to Get Help After You’re Arrested In Massachusetts

Were you arrested for a criminal offense in Massachusetts? A seasoned criminal defense attorney is your best ally. Police officers in general don’t want you to understand and advocate for your rights, or to call them out for unlawful conduct. They certainly don’t want evidence they found against you to be considered inadmissible. However, this is exactly what can occur if they conducted an illegal search and you have an experienced attorney on your side. 

To schedule your initial consult, contact Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer Thomas Kokonowski at 413-585-9200 (Northampton), 413-549-0022 (Amherst), or 413-737-9700.