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Illegal Search and Seizure in DUI Cases

It's always helpful to know your rights in any encounters with the police and with regards to your personal property. In DUI cases, charges may be dropped if a search and seizure was done illegally.

The term "search and seizure" is derived from the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Persons are protected from intrusion or their persons, homes, businesses, and property when there is no probable cause necessitating these intrusions. These protections also prohibit police from searching places in which you have a "legitimate expectation of privacy," which includes a person's self, clothing, purse, and vehicle.

For a search and seizure to be done legally, a search warrant must be issued, or an officer must have probable cause or a reasonable suspicion he will find something illegal. If you were pulled over for a cracked taillight, it would be difficult for a police officer to justify searching your vehicle.

However, if he or she sees a beer can or drug paraphernalia on the floor of the car, all bets are off. "Legitimate expectation of privacy" no longer applies if something is in plain view.

A police officer can always ask to search your car. If you give your permission, then it's legal, even if there is no probable cause. Never give your consent to the police to search your vehicle.

Here are several scenarios that make it legal for a police office to perform a search and seizure in a DUI case:

  • Use information or tips from a witness to justify probable cause.
  • Search your person or immediate surroundings when placing you under arrest.
  • Perform a search and seizure of property that is exposed and in plain view, meaning there were no expectations of privacy.
  • Search your vehicle with your consent - freely and voluntarily given.

If you believe you've been subjected to an illegal search and seizure in a DUI situation, contact an experienced attorney to protect your rights.

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