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Illegal Search and Seizure Lawsuit in Chicago, IL

illegal search and seizure lawsuit

At Curcio Law Offices, we understand that it can be frustrating and even frightening when officers take advantage of their authority and violate your rights. It’s important to work with an experienced lawyer in Chicago to have the best chance of showing that your 4th Amendment rights have been violated. To speak with a qualified attorney and file an illegal search and seizure lawsuit, please contact 312-321-1111 or fill out our online intake form today.

The Fourth Amendment

According to the Fourth Amendment, citizens of the United States maintain the following rights.

“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.”

Reasonable searches in the eyes of the law must balance two key factors: intrusion on Fourth Amendment rights and public safety. In general, one’s protection against illegal search and seizure depends largely on the location in which the search or seizure takes place.

What Is a Search Warrant?

A search warrant is issued by a court to allow law enforcement personnel to search a specific area and seize certain objects. Police must prove probable cause that a crime took place and that things relevant to the crime are likely to be located in the location designated by the request in order to obtain a search warrant.

What Are the Four Requirements for Search and Seizure?

In order for search warrants to be considered valid, they must satisfy four crucial criteria:

  • Law enforcement officers must file warrants in good faith.
  • The warrant must include probable cause to search by including reliable information.
  • A neutral and impartial judge must issue the search warrant.
  • The warrant must include specifics regarding the areas to be searched and the items to be seized.

What Happens if the Fourth Amendment Is Violated?

When police officers violate an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights and a search or seizure is declared illegal, all evidence obtained as a result of the search or seizure will almost surely be excluded from any criminal prosecution against the person whose rights were infringed upon. This doctrine is called “The Exclusionary Rule.” Furthermore, any evidence obtained from the original illegally-obtained evidence is also inadmissible. This is the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine.

Some defendants argue that if they can demonstrate that a search was unlawful, the case should be dismissed. This is not the case. The case can proceed if the prosecution has enough other evidence to convict the defendant. In addition, a court can take unlawfully taken evidence into account when deciding on an appropriate punishment after a conviction, and it can be included in civil and deportation proceedings. A prosecution can use such material to challenge the credibility of a defendant who speaks at trial in particular situations.

What Is Considered an Unreasonable Search and Seizure?

Illegal searches and seizures occur when a search is carried out without necessary authorization from legal authorities or when it is carried out outside of the bounds established by laws or statutes. The 4th Amendment was enacted to safeguard Americans against searches and seizures carried out by British soldiers during the American Revolution.

What Is an Example of an Unreasonable Search and Seizure?

As an example, let’s say a police officer walks by a vehicle and smells marijuana. Because the smell comes from inside a vehicle, the law enforcement officer is generally justified in search and seizure without a warrant. The same smell coming from a home, however, does not justify a warrantless search. In this case, law enforcement agents must obtain a valid warrant.

How to Prove Unreasonable Search and Seizure

After a defendant establishes that they were the subject of an illegal search or seizure, the court must determine whether the search or seizure was justified. What is reasonable in most cases is determined by the relevant circumstances. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, has established basic standards for several forms of private concerns, such as a person’s home, body, and vehicle.

The Fourth Amendment protects each of these private interests: house, person, and car, although distinct interests are subject to varying standards of justification. In their house, a person has a very strong and reasonable right to privacy, but in their automobile, a person should properly expect less privacy.

In order to show illegal search and seizure, you must prove certain elements. To prove a search, you must show that law enforcement violated your reasonable expectation of privacy. To prove a seizure, you must show that the conduct of law enforcement would have shown to a reasonable person that they are not free to leave at their own will.

When Do Police Not Need a Search Warrant?

It’s important to recognize that situations exist in which warrantless searches are permissible. In fact, many a legal search has happened without a warrant issued. When probable cause arises, searches become legal without a warrant. When specific exclusions apply, the police can legitimately conduct a search without a warrant even if there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

With Your Consent

The police can search a person’s property without a warrant if the subject freely and willingly agrees to an inspection of his or her belongings without being misled or coerced into doing so. You are not required to be informed that you have the right to decline a search.

When two or more persons live in the same house, one renter normally cannot consent to an inspection of another tenant’s property. A renter, on the other hand, can agree to a search of a home’s common spaces, such as the living room or kitchen.

A landlord cannot authorize a search of his or her tenant’s personal possessions, and the Supreme Court has decided that a person cannot agree to a house search on behalf of a spouse. An employer, on the other hand, can agree to a company-wide search that encompasses an employee’s work space but not their personal possessions.

Incident to an Arrest

A warrant is not required for police officers to conduct a search in conjunction with an arrest. If you are detained for a crime, the authorities have the legal authority to search you for weaponry, evidence that might be destroyed, or conspirators. For example, if you are caught for drug crimes, the police can investigate you, your house, or your car for further narcotics, and any evidence found could be used against you in court.

Following an arrest, police might conduct what is known as a “protective sweep.” If the authorities suspect a hazardous accomplice or accomplices are hidden within a certain area, this is done. The police will stroll across the area and will be able to lawfully investigate any areas where an accomplice could be hiding. Furthermore, throughout the sweep, the police have the legal authority to take any evidence found in plain sight.

Stop and Frisk

If police suspect you are illegally armed with a weapon, they can stop you and search you for firearms for a short period of time. This includes conducting a search of you during a traffic stop.

Exigent Circumstances

Police can conduct a search without a warrant if they believe the time it would take to get a warrant would threaten public safety or result in the loss of evidence. For example, if evidence is likely to be destroyed, a suspect is attempting to flee, or someone is being hurt, the police can forcefully enter a property. The obligation of a police officer to gather evidence, apprehend a suspect, or safeguard an individual surpasses the need for a search warrant.

Traffic Stop Searches

Unless police have cause to suspect your car includes criminal evidence linked to your arrest, these searches are confined to the area you might reach at the time of the search.

Plain View Doctrine

If evidence is readily apparent, police officers can legally search the area and take it. If the authorities observe an illegal conduct taking place outside your house, they may search your residence and collect evidence without a search warrant. However, the police must have reasonable grounds to believe the items are unlawful.

Hot Pursuit or Emergency Situations

While chasing down a fleeing suspect, police have the right to enter any space or building that the suspect enters without a warrant requirement.

Do I Have to Submit to a Search of My Car or Person?

The police may want to check your car if you’ve been stopped over on suspicions of driving while drunk or any other suspected infraction. Any interaction with police enforcement may be daunting, and you may feel forced to follow their instructions. They are in a position of power, and you are a law-abiding individual, after all. You might question, though, if you have to let police examine your automobile if they ask. No, that is not the case.

Even if you believe you have nothing to conceal, respectfully denying a car search is in your best interest, as unpleasant as it may be. You don’t want to unintentionally give the police access to evidence that might bolster the prosecutor’s case. If you’re pulled over by the cops and they ask to search your vehicle, respectfully deny by indicating you don’t consent to a search. In the long term, this will help your case.

What About Searches of My House or Apartment?

When it comes to submitting to or denying a police search of their residence, renters have a lot of options. Contact an illegal search and seizure lawyer to discuss your options if you believe your Fourth Amendment constitutional rights have been violated and police have improperly searched your house.

How Can Illegal Search and Seizure Lawyers Help You?

The United States Constitution offers citizens many protections, including search and seizure laws regarding evidence seized during an unlawful search. Unfortunately, police do not always adhere to the rules and regulations regarding search and seizure law. If you’ve been subjected to an illegal search or seizure, you may be able to file an illegal search and seizure lawsuit.

These are complicated cases that rely largely on the circumstances of each case. The first step, however, is to hire a law firm that works with civil rights cases and has experienced police misconduct attorneys in Chicago.

It’s easy to see that the law relating to unlawful searches and seizures is complex. The warrant requirement has various exceptions, the meaning of terms like “probable cause” isn’t always apparent, and police enforcement will have their own reasons for what they did. Furthermore, the actual facts in each case are extremely important in these sorts of trials.

You deserve to be represented by an attorney who handles civil rights disputes. Your lawyer should be familiar with search and seizure law, as well as how legislation and court decisions impact it. Finally, your lawyer should be familiar with the applicable standards of evidence and civil process in these types of cases.

Contact Curcio Law Offices Today

Curcio Law Offices stand ready to help you with your court cases regarding an unconstitutional search of your personal property or person. The Constitution states that American citizens have certain rights and protections, even from government officials. If your rights have been violated, we’re here to offer you experienced legal counsel and a positive attorney client relationship. We hold the government accountable when they infringe upon your rights. Our law firm has successfully advocated for victims of Chicago police brutality, due process violations, malicious prosecutions, and wrongful convictions for years. To arrange a consultation with a compassionate attorney, please contact 312-321-1111 or fill out our online intake form today.