People often hear the term “search and seizure” without understanding what these two actions entail or when they can and cannot happen. Movies and TV shows often depict people being patted down or the police entering a person’s home to look for something. Occasionally the movies and shows get the law and procedures associated with searches and seizures right – but many times they get it wrong. Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you have the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. This means the police must have reasonable suspicion, probable cause or a warrant to search your home or vehicle.

If you believe the police conducted an unreasonable and illegal search of your person, car, or home, contact a Sarasota criminal defense lawyer right away at (941) 363-7900.

What Is a Search & Seizure?

A search is mostly what you would think it is. It occurs when the police look through an area in which you would expect some privacy in order to find something. Your clothing, vehicle, home, and other premises can be searched by law enforcement under certain circumstances. In relation to the Fourth Amendment, it is not a search if the police look around public property or at items in plain sight.

A seizure is when the police take something under their control. Law enforcement can seize a person or property. When the police seize a person, that individual is detained or arrested. When the police take items, these are referred to as evidence.

Law enforcement can conduct searches and seizures in accordance with the law. If the police conduct these actions without the proper probable cause or a warrant, then an arrest or an evidence gathered may be invalid.

When Can the Police Search Your Person?

You can be stopped by the police if there is reasonable suspicion that you have been involved in a crime or will be involved in a crime. Reasonable suspicion is not simply an idea or hunch that you are involved in criminal activity – it must be more. When the police see you and the surrounding circumstances, they must note specific facts that support current or future crimes.

There are limits to when the police can search your person. If the police have reason to believe you have committed a violent crime in Florida, they may pat down your clothing or “frisk” you to look for weapons. The police cannot pat you down to look for drugs.

If the police gather more facts to support your involvement in a crime, they may have probable cause to arrest you at this time.

When Can the Police Search Your Vehicle?

When you are pulled over for a traffic stop in Florida, the police may be able to search your vehicle or may ask you for permission to do so. You are entitled to a certain degree of privacy in your car. This means the police either need to have probable cause to search your vehicle without your permission or they need your consent to do so.

What is Probable Cause?

Probable cause is a police officer’s reasonable belief that you have committed a crime, are currently committing a crime, or will commit a crime. It is a higher standard than reasonable suspicion and needs more evidence. Probable cause must be based on facts and not guesses, gut feelings, or intuition.

Police may have probable cause to search your vehicle if they pull you over and see drugs, open alcohol containers, or weapons through the windows. The police cannot search your vehicle for a minor traffic violation. Even suspicion of a DUI in Florida may not be enough probable cause to search your vehicle unless the police believe there is evidence of a crime in the car.

When Can the Police Search Your Home?

Your home is where you expect the most privacy, which is why the police need to have a warrant issued by a judge before searching your apartment or house. A search warrant requires the police to go to a judge or magistrate and demonstrate that they have probable cause that there is evidence of a crime on your property.

In general, the police do not have the right to enter your home and look around without a valid warrant or your permission. However, the police may enter the home and search the premises if there is illegal activity or items in plain view, they arrested someone who may have left weapons or other evidence in the house, or if there is an emergency, such as responding to calls for help.

Call a Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorney Today

You are protected from unreasonable search and seizure but there are many times that the police have a right to search your person, vehicle, or home. It is important you understand your rights to determine if the police overstep their boundaries. If the police gather evidence during an illegal search and seizure, your Manatee County criminal defense attorney can have this evidence thrown out so it cannot be used against you.

If you believe you may have been the victim of an illegal search and seizure, call Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. today at (941) 363-7900 to schedule a consultation.