Understanding Search and Seizure Laws in Florida
Oct. 31, 2023
If you're suspected of violating the law or committing a criminal act, the police can arrest you and search your personal property, vehicle, or home. During the search, any evidence relating to the offense could be obtained and seized by the police to build a case against you. However, the admissibility of such evidence during a criminal trial will depend on how the search and seizure was conducted.
During this complex time, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. At DaytonaDefense.com, we have the skills and resources to defend and represent individuals who are facing criminal charges. Our Florida criminal defense attorney can educate you about the state's search and seizure laws and outline a solid strategy to help fight your charges. We proudly serve clients across Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Port Orange, DeLand, Palm Coast, Flagler County, and Volusia County, Florida.
Your Rights Under the Fourth Amendment
Remember, even though you may be accused of a crime, you have rights. Pursuant to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:
"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."
Essentially, the Fourth Amendment was enacted to protect people from any unreasonable search and seizure by the United States government and law enforcement officers. In addition, the law outlines specific guidelines for searching a person's home, vehicle, or personal property. As a result, the police are prohibited from searching you or your property without probable cause, consent, or a valid search warrant.
Additionally, any police or law enforcement officer who wants to conduct a search and seizure must first head to the court to obtain a valid search warrant signed by the judge. The warrant isn't automatically issued upon request. The Florida court will only issue a search warrant if the search is considered reasonable and necessary.
Warranted Search and Seizure
Furthermore, both federal and Florida state laws protect individuals from illegal searches and seizures. For a search and seizure to be warranted in the state of Florida, the police officer must have probable cause to conduct it.
Under Florida law, probable cause involves different facts and circumstances that indicate that an individual:
Has committed a criminal act,
Is committing a crime, or
A place contains certain items connected with a criminal act.
In addition, to obtain a search warrant, it must meet the following requirements:
The warrant must be requested in good faith.
The police must have reliable information or probable cause to back the warrant.
The order must be issued by a neutral official.
The document must clearly specify whom and what is to be searched and the items to be seized.
In the event that the police fail to establish probable cause or obtain a valid search warrant before conducting a search and seizure, any evidence obtained during the search would likely be excluded during the trial.
Valid Searches and Seizures Without Warrants
The police may be eligible to conduct a warrantless search and seizure under the following exceptions or circumstances:
Consent – You consented or gave the police permission to conduct the search.
Plain view search – The evidence was located in plain view, and the police can easily access it.
Protect evidence – The police can conduct a search after an arrest to obtain evidence that may be destroyed.
Vehicle searches – The police officer believed that the vehicle contained illegal items or criminal evidence.
Protect personal safety – The police officer may conduct the search to obtain evidence to protect their own personal safety.
Exigent circumstances – The police officer can make an arrest or conduct a search during emergency situations to protect public safety.
Good faith exception – The police officer may conduct a search in good faith to obtain criminal evidence.
Outside these exceptions, the police are prohibited from conducting a search and seizure without obtaining a valid search warrant. Any evidence obtained during an unreasonable search and seizure would be inadmissible in court during trial. Of course, you’ll need an experienced attorney to help you navigate the legal process.
Understanding the Exclusionary Rule
The exclusionary rule prevents government authorities and police officers from using any evidence obtained in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Under the exclusionary rule, the Florida court will exclude any evidence obtained during an unlawful search—even if they were incriminating. As a result, convicting an alleged defendant for a crime with such evidence may be impossible.
We're Here to Protect Your Rights
Understanding the rules addressing search and seizure when facing criminal allegations is imperative to build a strong defense for your case. At DaytonaDefense.com, we're dedicated to protecting individuals facing criminal charges. Our trusted attorney can examine your case details, assess how the evidence against you was obtained, and outline an effective defense strategy to help fight your charges. Above all, we will fight for your rights and help you move forward.
Contact us at DaytonaDefense.com today to schedule a simple case assessment. Our firm is proud to represent clients throughout Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Port Orange, DeLand, Palm Coast, Flagler County, and Volusia County, Florida.