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What is an illegal search and seizure?

Drug crimes in Memphis are common, and those who are convicted could endure serious penalties for the charges they face. Often, a search and seizure by authorities leads to the drug charges. But an illegal search and seizure can make it difficult or impossible for prosecutors to convict a defendant. What is an illegal search and seizure?

United States residents have protection from unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In general, property within a person's residence or on their person is seen as private. Generally, law enforcement personnel must have a warrant before they enter your property.

A warrant gives police the authority to conduct a search of the property and to seize any evidence they may find without permission of the owner. The warrant is issued by a judge or magistrate and lists the areas where law enforcement may conduct their investigation.

There are exceptions to this search warrant requirement, however. Police typically do not need a search warrant if they enter a building during an emergency situation, if the property owner or occupier consents to the search or if evidence is in plain view.

Search and seizure are very important to charges of drug crimes. Without evidence that the defendant possessed illegal drugs, the prosecution may not be able to convict the accused.

For that reason, defenses against drug charges often turn on the question of whether the search was lawful. For instance, if police at a routine traffic stop open the car's trunk without permission to search inside, a court may find that police infringed upon the suspect's legitimate expectation of privacy. Any evidence they seized in the unlawful part of the search could be suppressed and not used in court against the defendant.

It's important for all those who are accused of crimes to be aware of their rights under the Fourth Amendment. Gaining a full understanding of this defense option and others is important when devising a defense strategy against drug charges.

Source: "Fourth Amendment", accessed on Sep. 29, 2014

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