Say that police pulled you over for running a stoplight. While you admit to running the light, you did not consent to the officer searching your vehicle. Did the officer have valid legal grounds for looking through your vehicle without your permission?

Cornell Law School explores the definition of “unreasonable search and seizure.” Determine whether you need to mount a case against any evidence police found during their search.

Definition

When a law enforcement officer engages in a search and seizure without probable cause or a search warrant, she or he engages in an illegal search and seizure. The reason unreasonable searches and seizures are illegal is that they violate your Fourth Amendment rights, which explicitly protects you from illegal search and seizure. Even if the officer finds evidence that you committed a crime, any evidence obtained during an unreasonable search and seizure becomes inadmissible in court. Further, such evidence becomes known as the “fruit of the poisonous tree.”

Defense

Unfortunately, you do not have a legal option to fight against the officer who committed the search and seizure. This is because of the qualified immunity doctrine, which safeguards government employees engaged in specific duties related to their position. Under the qualified immunity doctrine, you cannot sue the offending officer.

That said, if you can show that no reasonable police officer would engage in a search and seizure under the circumstances of your case, you could potentially take legal action. Gather as much evidence as you can to build a solid case.

No matter what kind of evidence the officer found during the search, you have rights to protect. Determine whether you were a victim of an illegal search and seizure.

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