Detroit Search & Seizure Attorney
Many types of criminal cases in Michigan are built on evidence found in searches. Investigators may look for evidence that links you or your property to a crime, such as drugs or drug paraphernalia in your car, or stolen goods in your house, or traces of blood if you’re suspected of an assault or a homicide.
Often, police may ask you to consent to a search, but you don’t have to agree. You have rights when it comes to a search or seizure of your property or your person. There is no requirement that you voluntarily consent to a search. If you don’t consent, then police are supposed to get a search warrant.
Your Rights When Police Want to Conduct a Search
One of the important rights Americans have as described in the U.S. Constitution is the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The amendment reads:
“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.”
The Fourth Amendment is what protects citizens from intrusion into their lives in the form of random arrests, warrantless searches of their homes or property, and illegal wiretaps or surveillance.
The basic idea behind the Fourth Amendment is that we all have an expectation of privacy and freedom from government interference in certain places and under certain circumstances. For example, because we have an expectation of privacy in our homes, police shouldn’t be allowed to search our homes without sufficient cause and without first obtaining a search warrant that demonstrates that cause.
In general, you may be considered to have an expectation of privacy — and therefore police would need a warrant — with regard to searches of your:
- Cell phone
- Computer or tablet
- Backpack, purse, or bag you’re carrying
However, there are some circumstances when police are allowed to conduct a search without a warrant. Those include, but are not limited to:
- You consented to the search
- When there is evidence of possible criminal activity in plain sight, such as a handgun and a baggie of cocaine sitting on the passenger seat of your car
- When you are lawfully arrested, police can search your person and any area within your arm’s reach
- There was some imminent danger to someone’s life or to someone’s property that required police to enter
- The property was available to the public, such as trash you set out in a Dumpster or on the curb
When police conduct a search without a warrant, or without probable cause to obtain a warrant, then a skilled Detroit search and seizure attorney can argue that evidence obtained in the search should not be used against you in court. If you believe that police in Detroit or the surrounding area have conducted an unlawful search of you or your property, an experienced Detroit criminal defense lawyer may be able to help you recover property that was seized or fight any criminal charge based on evidence found in the search.
Unlawful Traffic Stops
Some types of criminal charges, such as DUI or drug possession or trafficking, may be based on a traffic stop. For example, a police officer pulls you over and says that he or she smells alcohol and decides to give you sobriety tests or to search you and your vehicle for evidence. If you don’t perform the way the officer thinks you should on a sobriety test, you may be charged with the Michigan offense of operating a motor vehicle while impaired or OWI. If the officer finds a controlled substance in your glove box, you may be charged with drug possession.
However, in order to get to the point of an arrest, the officer first was supposed to have a valid reason to pull you over. Police or state troopers aren’t supposed to pull you over on a hunch or at random. They’re supposed to have reasonable suspicion of some illegal activity — even if it’s as simple as a busted taillight.
If you were stopped when you weren’t doing anything wrong and there was nothing wrong with your car, then there may have been no reasonable suspicion for the stop. When there was no valid reason for the stop, a good Detroit search and seizure attorney may be able to challenge your arrest and the use of any evidence obtained because of the stop.
Illegal Searches — How a Detroit Search and Seizure Attorney Can Help
When investigators search you or your property unlawfully, then the remedy allowed by the law is that you may be able to prevent that evidence from being used against you in court as evidence that you committed a crime. When evidence is excluded from court, that can weaken the prosecution’s case against you and lead to more favorable results. However, the question of whether a search was illegal, or whether a search warrant was invalid, is a complex legal matter and should be handled by a skilled Detroit search and seizure attorney on your behalf.