Unlawful Searches

Law Offices of James Crosby Dec. 2, 2020

Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney Serving Clients in Allegheny County, Westmoreland County and All Surrounding Areas in Western Pennsylvania

One of the most common issues a criminal lawyer will face involves unlawful searches and seizures. The U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions both afford all citizens with the right to be free from such intrusions on personal privacy by the government. Any evidence seized pursuant to an invalid search or seizure may be dismissed by a judge following a motion to suppress. If you are facing recent criminal charges and believe your rights may have been violated, Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers can help you with your defense.

Warrant Requirements

The US Constitution mandates that every government search or seizure, whether state or federal, be accompanied by a valid search warrant. A search warrant is obtained after law enforcement officers or Commonwealth attorneys present a judge or magistrate with enough evidence to satisfy the probable cause requirement. There are limited exceptions to the warrant requirement wherein police officers can search private property without a warrant. These limited exceptions include:

  • Search Incident to Arrest: If you are being arrested based on a police officer’s reasonable suspicion that a crime has just occurred, the officer may search your person for contraband during the arrest without a warrant. The officer may also search any area within the accused’s “wingspan,” meaning within arm’s reach.

  • Plain View: If officers are lawfully in an area and see contraband in plain view, they can seize those items without a warrant. The definition of “plain view” has been subjected to years of litigation and generally includes any items placed out in the open.

  • Consent: If someone consents to a search, there is no requirement that police officers obtain a warrant.Stop and Frisk: If police officers have a reasonable suspicion that an individual might be armed, they may stop and frisk that person without a warrant.

  • Automobile Exception: As the name suggests, automobiles are highly mobile and present a heightened risk of the destruction of evidence. If police officers have validly pulled a vehicle over for a violation of a crime, they may potentially be allowed to search the car for contraband without first obtaining a warrant.

  • Exigent Circumstances: If police are in hot pursuit of a suspect and taking the time to obtain a search warrant would be dangerous or futile, case law supports an exception to the warrant requirement.

Contact Experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers Today

If you believe your search and seizure rights were violated, the Law Offices of James Crosby can help defend you against your criminal charges. For more information or to make an appointment, call 412-391-0123 right away. We also have a convenient online form you can fill out.