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What is an illegal search and seizure?

When law enforcement suspects that a crime is being committed, evidence is needed to prove such suspicions. In some cases, these might be observations; however, in most cases, a search will need to be conducted to prove one or more elements of a crime. When a search is conducted, though, there are standards are rules that need to be followed.

What is an illegal search and seizure? To begin, it is important to understand when an investigation can turn into a search. First, one must ask whether the person whose home or property are being investigated or searched expect a certain degree of privacy. Next, one must act if this expectation of privacy is reasonable. If the answers to these two questions are yes, then a search is being conducted. If an investigation has impinged or intruded a person's legitimate expectation of privacy, then a search is being conducted.

In many situations, in order for a search to be conducted, a warrant must be issued. However, law enforcement is able to take photographs from the air above a home or is able to eavesdrop on a conversation in order to get enough information to obtain a warrant.

When a search warrant is issued, it gives law enforcement permission to conduct a search of the location or person listed and to seize any evidence in the scope of that search. In order to obtain a search warrant, police must show that probable cause exists that a crime has occurred and evidence linked to that crime will likely be found during the search of a location or person.

If a police officer conducts a search outside the scope of the search warrant or does not obtain a search warrant when one is necessary, a defendant can argue that an unlawful search and seizure occurred. This could help a defendant suppress or dismiss the evidence against them. In doing so, a defendant may also have the charges against them reduced or even dropped.

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