Illegal searches

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:36 pm
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. The most common areas of concern are the car and the home. Generally, in a car, the police may search the area under and around the front seat. If the driver is arrested, the officer can frisk him or her while looking for weapons. If the driver is outside the car and the police believe he or she is involved in criminal activity, then they may legally search for weapons. If the police find something soft, such as a pack of cigarettes, that can't possibly be a weapon, then they have no right to seize it, even if it contains drugs. This would be considered an illegal search. However, if they have probable cause to believe drugs were just bought, they could then legally seize the soft packet. Police normally can't search your home unless they have a warrant. The search warrant must specify what the police are looking for and where they're likely to find it. For example, if they're looking for a large item, such as a rifle, they can't look in a small container, like a jewelry box. The police don't need a warrant to search your home if you agree to the search. They also don't need a warrant if they believe someone's life is in danger, a suspect is about to escape, or that evidence might be destroyed. You have the right to challenge the legality of a warrantless search in court. For more information on illegal searches and seizures, you should consult an attorney.

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