Both the Constitutions of the State of New Jersey and of The United States ensure that people have the right to privacy and protection in their personal lives. One of the strongest protections for these rights is the right to be free from “unreasonable search and seizure.”
Police usually collect evidence through searches, which may or may not involve search warrants. Many times, these searches step beyond the officer’s powers and constitute illegal searches and seizures. In order to best protect your rights when you have been the victim of an illegal search or seizure, contact a criminal defense attorney right away. The New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych can file motions to suppress, motions to dismiss, and take other legal actions to help stop the police from convicting you based on illegal searches, seizures, and arrests.
What is “Search and Seizure”?
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states:
“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.”
The text of New Jersey Constitution, Art. I, § 7 has the exact same text. Both of these constitutions work to protect peoples’ right to security in their personal selves, houses, and other effects.
In order for a search or seizure to be illegal, it must first legally count as a “search” or a “seizure” under case law and legal precedent. In general, a search occurs when police look through your things, and a seizure occurs when the police take control over your things – or over you. A seizure of a person is simply an arrest, so these rules also prevent unreasonable arrests. Still, case law has more specific rules that dictate when something is or is not a search or seizure.
If something meets the legal definition of a search or a seizure, then police must have “probable cause,” at the very least, in order to legally perform the search or seizure. Probable cause means that there are specific facts that the law enforcement officer can point to to show a reasonable basis for believing that a crime occurred, and that the places, items, or people to be searched or seized are related to that crime.
The constitutions also require that the police have a “warrant” to search or seize. A warrant is a court order that gives law enforcement permission to perform a search or seizure. There are some situations where police do not need a warrant, such as when things are able to be moved, when they are in hot pursuit of a suspect, when evidence could be destroyed, or when health or safety is at risk.
If something is in plain sight, such as drugs on the passenger seat of a car or a gun in a suspect’s hand, it can provide probable cause for immediate search, seizure, or arrest.
Remedies for Illegal Search and Seizure
If you are the victim of an illegal search and seizure, you might have some legal options. The most common remedy for illegal searches and seizures is called “suppression.” This is an evidentiary remedy that prevents police and prosecutors from using evidence gained by an illegal search or seizure against you in court. Basically, if police break the rules in obtaining evidence, they are punished by losing the evidence.
Further, this protects you from anything gained as a result of the illegal search or seizure. Commonly known as the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine, this is a powerful tool to suppress large amounts of evidence. For instance, if police search your home for drugs, arrest you after finding drugs, then find an illegal gun on you during arrest, all of that evidence should be suppressed if the first search of your home was illegal.
Your attorney can file a motion to suppress, destroying the government’s chance to use evidence against you. If this evidence was necessary to prove their case, suppressing it could ultimately destroy the entire case against you. Without this evidence, prosecutors may be unable to prove their case and drop the charges against you, or you may be able to win your case at trial. Talk to an attorney about your case to see if you may have a case for suppression of evidence.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys
The Law Offices of John J. Zarych will diligently investigate the facts of your traffic stop, home search, or arrest to build the strongest defense for you. We have successfully defended clients in Atlantic County, Cape May County, Atlantic City, Northfield, Cape May Court House, Wildwood, Absecon, Buena Vista Township, Rio Grande and throughout New Jersey. To request a free consultation today, contact one of our skilled attorneys at (609) 625-3006. We are available seven days a week, including holidays.
Drug cases frequently arise from warrantless police searches conducted without probable cause, false information provided by addicted or unscrupulous informants, and outright entrapment. One of the most common mistakes that police make is illegally conducting searches or unlawfully seizing evidence.ho have been the victims of illegal search and seizure. Our search and seizure defense lawyers have more than 40 years of combined criminal defense experience, so they know exactly what state and federal law enforcement is and is not allowed to do.
Providing Protection From Unreasonable Search and Seizure
The U.S. Constitution, in addition to the New Jersey state constitution, provides protection from unreasonable search and seizure. If a police officer searches your home, your car or other property without a valid search warrant, it is considered an illegal search. Our law firm will file a motion to suppress any evidence obtained during such a search. In some instances, this alone can lead to the case being dismissed.
Did Police Pull You Over or Search Your Car Without Probable Cause?
The police must have probable cause to pull you over on the road. In addition, if you are pulled over because your car’s taillight is out or for some other minor infraction, it does not automatically give law enforcement probable cause to search your car. If the officer sees drug paraphernalia lying on the seat beside you, however, he or she would likely have probable cause to search the rest of the vehicle. However, our attorneys can still mount an aggressive defense and make sure your rights were not violated at any other point in the process.
We Are in Northfield, Cape May Court House, Wildwood and Atlantic City
The Law Offices of John J. Zarych will diligently investigate the circumstances related to your traffic stop, home search or arrest in order to build the strongest defense possible for you. To request a free consultation today, contact one of our skilled attorneys at (609) 625-3006. We are available seven days a week, including holidays.