Chicago Search and Seizure Lawyer

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizure by the government. This provision of the Fourth Amendment protects individuals’ privacy rights by placing limitations on the ability of police officers to conduct searches of people or property and to make arrests or seizures. In cases such as drug crimes, prosecutors tend to rely heavily on the evidence collected by police during a search and seizure.

If you are facing any charges, it is important that you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands how to challenge evidence obtained through an illegal search or seizure. Chicago search and seizure lawyer Michael O’Meara has more than 20 years of legal experience as a former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney. He has represented countless individuals facing various criminal charges and will fight for the best possible outcome for your case.

Privacy Protections

In order for the Fourth Amendment to apply, the individual must have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the property or area searched. What is “reasonable” depends not on the subject expectation of the individual, but on societal expectations as a whole. For example, you would have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your home, but not in a trash can located on a public street.

A search occurs when a law enforcement or government agent infringes upon an area or property in which the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy. A seizure occurs when the government interferes with a person’s interest in an object or property or when a person’s civil liberty is restrained by physical force or show of authority as in the case of an arrest.

Reasonable Search and Seizure

It is important to understand that the Fourth Amendment only prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. For a search or seizure to be considered reasonable, police must have one of the following:

  • Probable cause to believe that a person is committing or has committed a crime or that evidence of that crime can be found in a specific place and a judge/magistrate has issued a search warrant or arrest warrant.
  • The accused has consented to the search. If a person consents to a search, the officers do not need to obtain a warrant.
  • Particular circumstances exist that justify a search or seizure without a warrant.

While most searches will require a valid warrant from a judge, there are a number of exceptions to the warrant requirement. Some of the exceptions include:

  • Exigent circumstances such as when probable cause exists and police officers reasonably believe that evidence may be destroyed or removed. Exigent circumstances may also exist when a situation required immediate action by officers such as in an emergency.
  • Search of a person incident to arrest. The legitimacy of this type of search will depend on whether the underlying arrest is justified.
  • Searches of automobiles are less protected under the Fourth Amendment than a person’s home. The Supreme Court developed this exception based on the inherent mobility of vehicles and a lesser expectation of privacy than other private property. Police must have probable cause to search a vehicle, but generally, do not need a warrant.
  • Plain view doctrine. This exception allows police to seize contraband or an illegal item that is in plain view without a warrant so long as the officer is lawfully in that location in the first place.

The Exclusionary Rule

When contraband such as weapons or illegal drugs is obtained through an illegal search or seizure, the remedy is to suppress or exclude that evidence. This is known as the exclusionary rule and it prevents the prosecution from being able to admit illegally obtained evidence to prove their case. There are a number of factors that go into determining whether a search or seizure was illegal. For this reason, it is critical to work with a criminal defense attorney who knows how to challenge evidence acquired through illegal searches and seizures.

How a Chicago Search and Seizure Lawyer Can Help

If you have been charged with a drug offense and believe you were subject to an unlawful search and seizure, contact Chicago criminal defense lawyer Michael O’Meara for help. O’Meara is dedicated to providing sophisticated representation and protecting the rights of his clients throughout the legal process. He understands how to defend against serious drug charges and he will work diligently to secure the best possible outcome in your case.

Contact O’Meara Law today at 312-909-0706 to schedule a consultation.