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Understanding Improper Searches in Alabama Criminal Cases

Posted by Andrew Segal | May 23, 2023 | 0 Comments

What is an Improper Search in Huntsville or Madison County?

An improper search in Alabama is an illegal search that violates an individual's constitutional right to privacy.

 The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which states:
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.

This Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement in places where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. This includes their residence, property, and body, as well as specific areas of a motor vehicle (such as a locked trunk), and certain public places (for example, a public restroom stall). 

For a search to be reasonable and, therefore, proper: Police must have probable cause to believe incriminating evidence exists, and they obtain a search warrant from a judge, or the circumstances make it lawful for police to search without a warrant. 

A court can suppress evidence found during an improper search, meaning it cannot be used against the defendant during their trial. A court can suppress evidence found during an improper search, meaning it cannot be used against the defendant during their trial.

If you have questions about a criminal charge, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Segal and Segal to examine your case and determine if your rights were violated. Call us at 256-533-4529 to schedule a consultation.

Proper versus Improper Searches in Alabama

A court will consider several factors when deciding whether a search was conducted properly.

Proper Searches

A proper or lawful search is conducted Under a proper warrant;
Without a proper warrant but where the police believe in good faith, there is a lawful basis for the search–the “good faith exception.” (For example, if the police rely in good faith on an invalid search warrant and otherwise behave properly during the search.)

Under some circumstances, a warrant is not required
Situations that do not require a warrant include where:
Police search a person after a lawful arrest
Police search a vehicle after a lawful stop
There is a risk that incriminating evidence may be destroyed or concealed
A person is briefly held for investigation during a “stop and frisk” 
The search relates to a person the authorities are in “hot pursuit” of
The person being searched or the property owner consents to the search 
In these situations, law enforcement can conduct a proper search without a warrant. 

Improper Searches

An improper or unlawful search occurs when:
The police conduct a search without a warrant in circumstances where a warrant is required
The police conduct a search under an improper warrant, and the good-faith exception does not apply
The search is conducted in a way that violates a person's reasonable expectation of privacy
If these circumstances exist, a defendant may file a motion with the court asking it to find the search improper and apply the exclusionary rule. 

An Improper Search and the Exclusionary Rule

The exclusionary rule prevents the government from relying on evidence obtained due to violating an individual's constitutional rights. It means that any evidence found during an improper search cannot be used as evidence against a defendant during a criminal trial. 

When to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Huntsville or Madison County:

If the prosecution relies on evidence found during a police search, you should ask an experienced criminal defense lawyer at Segal and Segal to review your case. They can advise you whether the correct search and seizure procedures were followed. 

If an improper search has violated your constitutional rights, we can help you argue that the evidence found during the search should be suppressed at your trial. If successful, this may weaken the prosecution's case against you and help you defend the charges. To learn more, contact Segal and Segal, today by calling 256-533-4529 or submitting an online form to request a consultation.

About the Author

Andrew Segal

Andrew Segal is a former judge and prosecutor who now represents the accused as a criminal defense attorney in Huntsville, Alabama, area courts. Andrew graduated cum laude from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, in 1982. and Washington College of Law at American University in 1988.


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