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Unreasonable Searches and Seizures Attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

During the first Congress of the newly formed United States, Representative James Madison introduced 17 amendments to the Constitution. The Senate whittled the list down to 12, and President George Washington sent the 12 to the states for approval. Only 10 received that approval and became known as the Bill of Rights. 

The Fourth Amendment, which protects the rights of citizens to privacy and prohibits “unreasonable” searches, was not only borrowed from British law but was also expanded upon. The Fourth Amendment not only prohibits searches for which a warrant has not been issued, but it also requires that warrants be specific in what the search aims to uncover.  

To this day, people charged with crimes based on evidence obtained without a warrant—known as illegal searches and seizures—can move to have any evidence obtained dismissed. This can also apply in those cases in which a warrant was issued, but authorities overstepped the limits of the permitted search. 

If you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge, or is under investigation for one, in or around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and you believe your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated, contact the criminal defense team at H. Rosen Law, P.C. We are dedicated to fighting for justice for those who have had their rights abused, and we will work with you to challenge any evidence obtained through any illegal search or seizure.  

We proudly serve clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Harrisburg, Scranton, as well as the greater Philadelphia area. Reach out to us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

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Your Rights Under the Fourth Amendment

The wording of the Fourth Amendment is brief but powerful: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."  

Note that the amendment, in describing a proper warrant, includes the phrase “the persons or things to be seized,” which means that a warrant has to be specific. The British instituted a system of warrants in 1760 at home, but the warrants did not have to be specific. Fresh in the minds of the nation’s leaders as well was how British soldiers, during the Revolutionary War, would just enter people’s homes and seize whatever they liked. 

Another important phrase is “persons, houses, papers, and effects,” indicating that the right to privacy extends to all those categories. If authorities wish to bring someone in to face a charge, they will need an arrest warrant in that situation as well.   

What Is an Unreasonable Search and Seizure?

An unreasonable search and seizure is one that is conducted without a warrant, one that exceeds the authority granted in the warrant issued by a court, or one that lacks “probable cause.” Say police suspect you’re running an illegal Ponzi scheme from your home, robbing “investors” of their cash with false promises.  

Police come to your home with a warrant to seize anything related to such an operation—your hard drive, paper records, bank statements, and the like—but in the process, they discover you have a stash of illegal drugs. They seize the drugs, and soon you are charged with illegal possession or maybe even selling or distributing illegal drugs. 

The problem here is that the warrant did not authorize a search for controlled substances. Any evidence obtained outside the bounds of a warrant is called “fruit of the poisoned tree.” This type of evidence is subject to a motion to dismiss. 

Valid Searches and Seizures Without a Warrant 

Here, the term “probable cause” comes into focus. Probable cause is mentioned in the Fourth Amendment as the basis for a warrant, but if police, for instance, see someone committing a crime, they can have probable cause to do an immediate search of you, your car, or whatever you’re carrying with you, such as a briefcase or even a shopping bag.  

Probable cause can also lead to warrantless searches when police believe lives are in danger. Warrantless searches are also justified when something is discovered in plain sight. If you’re pulled over for a traffic violation and police notice a handgun on the passenger-side seat, they can conduct a search and even seize evidence, such as the handgun. 

If you waive your right to Fourth Amendment protections, for instance, by agreeing to have your car searched when asked, that renders any resulting search and seizure legal.  

The Exclusionary Rule

Following a 1961 U.S. Supreme Court decision, evidence obtained through a violation of someone’s constitutional rights—in many cases, through illegal searches and seizures—cannot be admitted in court against a defendant. It must be suppressed. This has come to be known as the exclusionary rule.  

Unreasonable Searches and Seizures Attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

If you believe you have been subjected to an illegal search or seizure and are now under investigation or have already been charged, contact us at H. Rosen Law, P.C. We will protect your rights and fight to have any illegally obtained evidence suppressed. If prosecutors have no other evidence against you, they may have to dismiss the charges.  We proudly stand up for clients’ justice and equal protection under the constitution, serving clients throughout the Philadelphia area and Southeastern Pennsylvania.