Criminal defense: Limitations when it comes to search and seizure

Facing the police is an overwhelming and confusing situation for many people in Lake Charles. Despite having very clear protections when interacting with law enforcement officers, many people are unsure of those rights. Some officers take advantage of this uncertainty to push past the legal limitations of searches and seizures. Any violation of search and seizure law is upsetting, but can be helpful when building a criminal defense.

Obtaining a search warrant from a judge is one of the main ways in which police may perform searches and seizures. Police must demonstrate they have probable cause to believe that a crime was committed. When executing a search warrant, officers can enter into the named location and may only search for items that are listed in the search warrant. Should officers find evidence out in plain view -- such as drug paraphernalia on a kitchen table -- they may also seize this property.

However, this does not give police free rein to search every inch of a person's property. For example, it might be reasonable for police to open closet or bedroom doors to check that no one is hiding. Depending on the specifications in the search warrant, police cannot extend that search to things like medicine cabinets or areas that are obviously too small for a person to hide.

In some situations police may perform searches without warrants. In general, an individual will have to give his or her consent. This means that if an officer asks a homeowner if it is okay to search the garage and the homeowner consents, the officer can then legally search the specified area and seize property as evidence of a crime. Consent to search a single room does not extend to other areas outside of the person's given consent.

These limitations only apply to where a person might reasonably expect privacy. Determining where a person has a reasonable expectation to privacy can be a point of contention during criminal proceedings, and may make creating a strong criminal defense plan challenging. Getting a proactive start on defense planning can help defendants in Lake Charles better understand their unique situations.

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