The police searched my property. Is that legal?
If you have been arrested for a crime in Michigan, it may seem like the law is stacked against you. Fortunately, the Constitution protects you in several crucial ways. One of the most significant protections is the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
How Does Your Right To Be Free Of Illegal Searches And Seizures Protect You?
In legal terms a “search” is an inspection of any place you normally consider private. Police officers must have probable cause to conduct a search. A “seizure” is the actual taking of a person's property. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures by limiting how and when police can search places such as your home or car and collect evidence. If police conduct an invalid search or seizure, an experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyer can fight to exclude any improperly obtained evidence.
This means illegally obtained evidence such as clothing, drugs, phone records even murder weapons may not be admissible in court. Without the use of this evidence, a prosecutor may lack sufficient evidence to convict you of a crime, leading to charges being reduced or even dismissed. With over 100 years experience practicing statewide, the Michigan criminal defense lawyers at Grabel & Associates recognize when police make errors in collecting evidence such as by performing illegal searches and seizures and will use these errors as part of your vigorous defense.
What Constitutes An Illegal Search Of My Home?
As a general rule, police are required to obtain a signed search warrant from a judge granting them permission before they can search your home. The search warrant must be based on “probable cause” that a crime has occurred and that police will likely find evidence linked to that crime in your home. Some exceptions exist, such as where police legitimately believe that people in your house are in danger of being harmed, or if you flee into your own home while being pursued by police. Once the police show you the warrant, they can enter your house, whether or not you agree to the search. However, the police search must be limited to what is spelled out in the warrant. Police searches of areas not listed in the warrant may be considered illegal.
Michigan Illegal Search and Seizure Lawyers
In some cases police may show up without a warrant if you invite them in (“consent” to a search), evidence collected may be allowed so it’s best to politely turn them away.
The good news is that even if you don’t remember the technicalities of search and seizure law knowledgeable search and seizure attorneys understand when a police search is valid. If police make a mistake or overstep their bounds, an aggressive Michigan criminal defense lawyer will make sure the judge knows it and fight to keep any illegally obtained evidence out of court.
What Constitutes An Illegal Search Of My Car?
The instances when police can validly search your car are more complex, but your constitutional right to be free of illegal search and seizures is still just as important. First, a police officer must have a valid reason for stopping your car. If after they stop your car, they see illegal items in plain view police may be able to collect that evidence and later use it against you. This means if a police officer walks up to the vehicle and sees narcotics, he can seize them.
Further, if the police think, have “probable cause” to believe, that the car has evidence of illegal activity such as weapons or other contraband in, they may be able to conduct a warrantless search of the rest your car. This may include your glove box, trunk or even backpack/purse. For example, if police pull you over and smell marijuana coming from the vehicle, they may be able to validly search any part of your car to look for evidence. Also, if police have placed you under arrest, they can search anywhere under your immediate control.
Although in many situations police may search your car without a warrant (the “automobile exception”), several limitations exist. It’s a good idea to consult with a Michigan search and seizure lawyer if police have taken evidence from your car.
Police May Validly Search Areas Where You Don’t Expect Privacy
Your Fourth Amendment privilege to be free from “illegal searches and seizures” only applies to those places where you have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Michigan courts have found that it’s okay to search non-private areas such as garbage you've placed outside your house for pickup. It’s also okay for police to conduct a search of your person if you’ve been arrested.
Our Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyers Have Successfully Used Illegal Searches and Seizures As Part Of A Vigorous Defense Strategy
At Grabel & Associates we know how to use police errors in collecting evidence to your benefit. Not only have we filed hundreds of motions to suppress for clients across Michigan and successfully kept criminal charges from even being filed, we have also been able get suspects set free on appeal where, months or years after a criminal trial, an investigation demonstrates that the state's case rested on illegally obtained evidence.
Michigan Illegal Search and Seizure Lawyers
If you have been arrested on suspicion of a felony, one of the first things our aggressive Michigan criminal defense lawyers will do is review the evidence against you and determine whether police violated your Fourth Amendment rights. Our Michigan search and seizure lawyers are intimately familiar with federal and state laws and know when police have crossed the line in collecting evidence.
For a free consultation to discuss how a Michigan search and seizure lawyer from Grabel & Associates can help you, call us toll-free at 1-800-342-7896, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or you can use the contact form on this website to Email our law firm.