The police have broad powers when it comes to conducting criminal investigations. One important police function is to search for and seize important evidence, although strict laws must be followed to keep the searches lawful.
Generally, searches need a warrant to be valid, although there are exceptions to this rule. The search and seizure are unlawful if there is no warrant and the police cannot point to a valid exception. If there is a warrant, the search might still be unlawful if the warrant is faulty or defective. Defective warrants might stem from fabricated probable cause or mistaken beliefs about where evidence might be found. A search must be supported by probable cause and authorized by a warrant or fall under an exception to the warrant rule. If evidence is seized unlawfully, it can be suppressed.
It is often hard to prevent an unlawful search, but that does not mean we cannot do something about the tainted evidence. Our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys can help you prevent tainted evidence from being used against you. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 for a free case review.
Unlawful Searches and Seizures in New Jersey
It does not take much for a search or seizure to become unlawful. If strict procedural rules are not followed, a search and seizure might be unlawful, and any evidence taken will be considered tainted and unusable. If you were the subject of a search and seizure, our South Jersey criminal defense lawyers can help you determine if the search was lawful and how we can suppress evidence taken illegally.
Searches and Seizures Beyond the Scope of a Warrant
When a search warrant is issued, it must be very specific about the location being searched and what evidence the police expect to find. Warrants give a lot of power to the police to enter private spaces, but that power is not unchecked. If certain areas are not specifically mentioned within the warrant, they are off limits and should not be searched.
For example, suppose the police are conducting a criminal investigation and have a warrant to search your home. Next, suppose the warrant specifically mentions your home and all rooms within are to be searched but says nothing of the detached garage. Since the garage is not specifically mentioned in the warrant, it cannot be searched by law enforcement.
Warrantless Searches and Seizures
A search without a warrant should immediately draw the ire of judges and defense attorneys. While not all searches and seizures require a search warrant, these are exceptions, not the rule. The police must jump through a few legal hoops to obtain a valid search warrant. They must present sufficient probable cause that a crime has been committed and that evidence of that crime is likely to be found in a specific location. Next, a judge must review and approve the warrant before the police can execute it.
Sometimes, the police dispense with the warrant rule when they should not. This might be because the police conducting the investigation are inexperienced and do not know they needed a warrant. Alternatively, the police might be aware that their actions are unlawful and are banking on the frightened suspect giving in to police pressure tactics. Our Ocean City criminal defense attorneys will stand up for you when police overstep their boundaries and violate your rights.
Warrantless Searches Without an Exception
While the warrant requirement tends to be the golden rule regarding searches and seizures, this rule is not without exceptions. There are various ways in which the police can seize evidence without a warrant. For example, if the police ask if they can search your home and you say yes, they do not need a warrant because they have your consent.
Alternatively, if the police see the evidence in plain view and no search is necessary, they can take it under the plain view rule. However, the police must be in a place they are legally allowed to be when they spot the evidence in plain view.
The police might claim that an exception exists, but that does not make it true. Our Haddonfield criminal defense lawyers can help you challenge the claims made by law enforcement that an exception to the warrant rule existed. For example, the police might claim the evidence was in plain view, but if they were illegally present at the location where the evidence was found, the plain view rule would not apply.
In some cases, the warrant was lawfully obtained by the police before they conducted a search. However, it later turned out that the information the warrant was based on was incorrect. This is not necessarily a fatal flaw but may provide grounds for our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys to suppress evidence obtained under the faulty warrant.
For example, suppose the police use information to establish probable cause for the warrant they later discover was wrong. The warrant might be faulty, but the search might still be lawful if the police acted in good faith. For law enforcement’s actions to be considered good faith, they must have genuinely believed the false information was correct at the time of the search. If we discover that the police knew the information was correct but proceeded with the search anyway, they did not act in good faith, and the search should be deemed unlawful.
What Happens to Evidence Taken in an Unlawful Search and Seizure in New Jersey?
When evidence is seized pursuant to an illegal search and seizure, it can be suppressed. Suppressed evidence cannot be admitted in court and will not be heard by a jury. Suppression does not happen automatically, and our Cape May criminal defense attorneys must file a pretrial motion to suppress evidence.
Our pretrial motion to suppress the tainted evidence will not be granted unless we have evidence that the search and seizure was unlawful. Exactly what kind of evidence we need will vary based on the reason for the unlawful search. For example, if incriminating evidence was found in your garage, we can use the warrant itself as evidence if the garage is not mentioned anywhere within the warrant.
Call Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers for a Free Case Assessment
If the police recently searched your home or another place where you had an expectation of privacy, our Brigantine criminal defense attorneys can help you challenge the validity of the search. For a free case review, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.