One way that law enforcement officers gather evidence of criminal activities against an individual is to conduct a search and seizure. The search may be conducted at a home, a business, a vehicle, or a search of the person may even be conducted. While searches and seizures have been used for centuries by law enforcement agencies, the police do not have the right to conduct a search anytime they wish nor can a search be conducted without a good reason. On the contrary, both the U.S. Constitution and the Nebraska constitution place limits on when and how a search and seizure may be conducted. If the police fail to abide by those limits the search may be deemed an illegal search and seizure and all evidence seized as a result may be inadmissible at trial.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is where the limits on a search and seizure can be found, reading as follows:
“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.”
Nebraska State Constitution Article I-7 mirrors the Fourth Amendment, providing yet another layer of protection against illegal searches and seizures in Nebraska.
In essence, both the 4th Amendment and Article I-7 start with the presumption that for a search to be legal it must be conducted after first obtaining a warrant based on probable cause that a crime has been committed and that evidence of the crime will be found at the place to be searched. Over the years, the warrant requirement has been watered down by the courts, allowing warrantless searches to be conducted of your vehicle and your person. A valid reason for the search is still required; however, a warrant is not in most cases. Your home, however, remains well protected and cannot be searched without a warrant except under very limited circumstances.
If the police do conduct an illegal search, and evidence is found during the search, your attorney will ask the court to exclude that evidence from trial. If the court agrees that the search was conducted illegally, the judge will order the evidence to be inadmissible at trial. In addition, if the search led to another search, for example of your business, and the original search is found to be illegal, any evidence obtained from the subsequent search may also be inadmissible based on the “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” doctrine.
Search and seizure law can be very confusing and is always fact specific, which is why you should consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney if you believe you were the subject of an illegal search and seizure. Contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.