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How an illegal search and seizure could affect your criminal case

On Behalf of | May 29, 2023 | Search & Seizure

Action by law enforcement is considered unlawful if the approach taken violates your Fourth Amendment rights that protect against unreasonable searches and seizures by the state. This can happen when a government official conducts a search or seizure:

  • Without a legally valid search warrant
  • Without probable cause to believe that a certain person or specified place has criminal evidence
  • Extending the authorized scope of the search warrant

An illegal search and seizure can significantly shift the direction and outcome of your criminal case.

The evidence obtained may not be introduced in court

There is a legal rule based on constitutional law (exclusionary rule) that prevents evidence obtained in violation of your rights from being used in a court of law. Another legal doctrine, known as the fruit of the poisonous tree, further reinforces the exclusionary rule by encompassing any other evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search.

For instance, if the police search your home illegally and find contraband, such evidence may not be introduced in court under the exclusionary rule. Similarly, if you make incriminating statements during the unlawful search, they will also be inadmissible in court as they originated from the illegal search. In other words, these statements were “fruit of the poisonous tree.”

When evidence is excluded from trial, it may be difficult or impossible for the prosecution to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution may opt to reduce your charge or even drop the charges against you if it can no longer make its case effectively.

Seek legal assistance

The defense must file a motion to suppress to prevent any evidence obtained from an illegal search and seizure from being introduced in court. The process is fairly technical from a legal perspective, given that there are certain exceptions to the exclusionary rule. You may not grasp the intricacies involved in suppressing evidence and could unintentionally undermine your case if you proceed without necessary guidance. Seeking legal guidance is an important part of pursuing a favorable outcome to a criminal case.