When an officer knocks on the front door of your house, stops you as you walk down the street or pulls you over while driving, there is a possibility that the officer will search your property for evidence of a crime. However, under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you are protected from unlawful searches and seizures. A criminal defense attorney can help to ensure that your rights are protected.
What is an unlawful search? Generally, an officer needs a valid warrant, consent and/or for probable cause in order to search an area where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Probable cause means that the police officer has reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed or will be committed in the future. The officer also must have reasonable grounds to believe that the property to be searched and/or the person who owns the property being searched is somehow connected to the crime. For example, the smell of alcohol during a traffic stop or seeing evidence of drug use out in "plain view" may give the officer the probable cause needed to go forward with the search.
If you can establish that an officer lacked the necessary probable cause to search you or your property, the court may determine that the search was illegal, and any evidence found during the search will not be admissible in court.
Many people are victims of an unlawful search and seizure and don't even know it. An experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer can attempt to help determine whether your constitutional rights were violated and try to help get any evidence acquired during the unlawful search thrown out of the case.