The United States Constitution sets out basic protections for citizens. One of those basic protections, enshrined in the Bill of Rights, is the 4th Amendment. This amendment protects people from illegal search and seizure by the government. Despite the prominence of this protection in the Constitution, law enforcement throughout the United States still conducts unlawful searches. In this article, we will discuss what Florida Law considers to be an illegal search.

What Is The Fourth Amendment?

Sir Edward Coke put forth the doctrine that inspired The Fourth Amendment. He said “That each man’s home is his castle”. The United States Constitution enshrined this doctrine in the Bill of Rights in order to protect individuals from unreasonable arrest, search, seizure, or surveillance, to name a few. It essentially limits the government’s police powers against individuals in the United States and applies to citizens and non-citizens equally.

What Is An Illegal Search?

An illegal search is any search that was conducted without consent, without probable cause, or without a valid warrant. The United States Supreme Court has created a test to determine if a search was illegal or not. The test is as follows:

  • Would a reasonable person have an expectation of privacy in a similar setting?
  • Was there an expectation of privacy?

For example, if you are on a cell phone having a conversation about committing a crime. A police officer overhears you and subsequently arrests you. As a result, while the actual arrest may or may not be legal, the overhearing of the conversation would not be considered illegal under the Fourth Amendment since the conversation was in public without an expectation of privacy. On the other hand, it is illegal for the police to tap a private phone in a private residence without a warrant.

Can A Warrant Make An illegal Search Legal?

Although a warrant can give the government permission to violate a person’s privacy, it is not a free-for-all. The process of obtaining a warrant is complex. Firstly, an attorney acting on behalf of the government must plead the government’s case to the judge. They must prove that the warrant is necessary and just by showing that there is probable cause that the search will produce evidence of a crime. However, even if a judge signs and issues a search warrant, your lawyer can challenge the validity of a warrant in court. If the trial judge founds that probable cause was lacking or that there were material omissions by the affiant, any evidence gathered from the search may be ruled inadmissible.

Can The Court Use Illegally Gathered Evidence?

Evidence gathered illegally by the government is inadmissible in court. If that illegal evidence leads to other evidence, the other evidence would be inadmissible under the “spoils of the poisonous fruit doctrine”.

Importantly, any evidence illegally gathered by another private individual who then turns it over to the government might be admissible as long as the private individual was not acting as an agent on behalf of the government.

In Conclusion

If you are a victim of an illegal search, you should contact the experienced defense attorneys at Valrico Law Group. We will review the facts of your case, explain to you your legal rights, and possibly challenge the admissibility of that illegal evidence to ensure your rights remain protected.