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Texas police limitations on search and seizure

On Behalf of | Dec 16, 2022 | Criminal Law

The U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment limits the police’s ability to legally perform search and seizure activities concerning individuals and their personal property, such as their homes or car.

If a police search has violated the law, the judge could toss out the evidence. For the police to search, it must be on reasonable grounds. Several exceptions exist, but the following covers some basics.

Home searches

All police searches of private property, such as your home, require a warrant. To get a warrant, the police must have probable cause to search your home. The warrant also details a specific scope or area in which police can search for the supposed evidence or contraband they’re seeking. Even if you consent to a private property search without a warrant, the police can only search the areas for which you have given consent.

If the police search without consent or a warrant, the judge may bar any evidence they obtain during a trial. However, if you invite an officer into your home, anything lying in plain view, such as drug paraphernalia, can be legally seized.

Obtaining evidence illegally

If you were the victim of an illegal search and seizure, the law has certain protections regarding any evidence seized during the search. In criminal law, the exclusionary rule protects your constitutional rights by preventing any evidence collected or analyzed illegally from being used in court.

Additionally, a doctrine called the “fruit of the poisonous tree” makes other evidence inadmissible in court if it was derived from original evidence obtained illegally.

Car searches

A police officer cannot search your vehicle without your consent or a warrant. The officer may ask, but you are within your rights to say no, and as part of a criminal defense, you can challenge an illegal vehicle search in court.

.An officer cannot legally search your car during a traffic stop, such as speeding. However, the police can search your vehicle if they believe an occupant is armed and dangerous or has probable cause, such as a concealed weapon.

Having an awareness of police search and seizure limitations can help you protect your constitutional right to privacy.