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What if the police perform an illegal search?

On Behalf of | Feb 6, 2024 | Criminal Law

There are numerous federal and state rules restricting the actions of law enforcement professionals. They need to comply with the law when investigating criminal activity. They also need to respect the rights of suspects and those in state custody.

Occasionally, police officers do not adhere to best practices and may engage in behavior that is illegal or a violation of someone’s basic rights. Police officers might search an individual’s body, their home or their vehicle without proper consent. Such searches are usually only legal with a warrant or probable cause. What happens if police officers conduct an illegal search while investigating alleged criminal activity?

The evidence may not hold up in court

There are laws and legal precedents that apply to prosecutors much like there are laws that apply to police officers. Prosecutors should not use evidence obtained through inappropriate means. They generally look into how the police department secured evidence to avoid a scenario where they can’t use what the police found.

If they attempt to present evidence gathered through illegal police conduct, then the defendant’s lawyer could fight back. The exclusionary rule allows defense attorneys to request that the courts exclude certain evidence from a criminal trial because of the violations that occurred while gathering the evidence.

Evidence obtained due to an illegal traffic stop or a search conducted without proper authorization may not actually be usable in a criminal trial. In some cases, excluding it from the trial could lead to the dismissal of someone’s pending charges. As such, whether a search was legal or not could have a profound impact on someone’s criminal defense strategy after an arrest.