What Does Search and Seizure by the Police Mean?

You have heard this phrase before, but what exactly does it mean?

While it may seem as though police officers can act however they want, there are certain laws and procedures that need to be followed. Search warrants are no exception.

Search and seizure describes the process in which a law enforcement official may legally examine a person’s home, business, or vehicle in an effort to obtain evidence showing that a crime has been committed. The search portion involves police officers going through a person’s property to look for specific items that can prove that the individual committed a crime. A seizure refers to police officers taking possession of any items during the search.

However, there are strict rules that must be followed. That is because U.S. citizens are guaranteed certain rights under the Constitution. For example, the Fourth Amendment protects personal privacy, giving every citizen's right to be free from unreasonable government intrusion. It applies in various situations, including the following:

  • A person is arrested.
  • Police officers enter a person’s home to place them under arrest.
  • A person is walking down the street when they are stopped and questioned by police.
  • A driver is pulled over for a minor traffic infraction, and police decide to search the trunk of the vehicle.
  • Police officers confiscate an individual's personal property.
  • Police officers enter a place of business to look for evidence of crime.

Illegal Search and Seizure

While law enforcement officials have the right to perform a search and seizure, it must be done appropriately. Under the U.S. Constitution, any search of a person or their property, such as a vehicle or home, must be reasonable. This also applies to any seizure of tangible evidence.

In Texas, law enforcement must obtain a search warrant before they can search someone’s property. A search warrant is a written order issued by a judge that allows police to search a particular place so they can look for specific types of evidence. However, police do not have the right to search any place they want. A search warrant can only be obtained by police if it can be proven that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.

If police have a valid search warrant, then the search is not illegal. A valid search warrant must include the following information:

  • A statement showing that it comes from “The State of Texas.”
  • The location where police are allowed to search.
  • Information about what police are looking for and can seize.
  • When the warrant was issued
  • The name and signature of the judge who granted the warrant.

If a search warrant does not have this information, it may be considered an illegal search. This means that any evidence police find can be excluded from trial.

Contact Our Austin Criminal Defense Lawyers Today

Search and seizure is governed by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. It must be implemented properly by law enforcement, which means it must be reasonable and performed in accordance with the law.

The Austin criminal defense attorneys at Granger and Mueller PC can assess your situation and determine whether or not proper procedures were followed in your search and seizure. Schedule a consultation today by calling (512) 474-9999 or filling out the online form.