There are a host of factors that criminal defense lawyers have to look at when they are determining how to proceed with the defense for each case they take on. One of the issues they often look into is how a search and seizure was conducted. In some cases, errors with the search or seizure can lead to a possible defense strategy.
In recent news, a man who was facing federal drug trafficking charges had those charges thrown out after it was determined that the search and seizure was illegal. The man had been stopped by police for jaywalking, but he wasn't jaywalking. Since the police officers didn't have a valid reason to stop the man, it was determined that the search that led to the police discovering bags of marijuana on the man wasn't legal.
There are several things that must considered when trying to determine if a search and seizure was legal. A comprehensive knowledge of the Fourth Amendment is necessary. The Fourth Amendment covers the instances in which police officers can execute a search without a warrant.
Generally, police officers have to have probable cause to believe that a crime has occurred in order to execute a search. On top of that, they must reasonably believe that a search will turn up evidence of the crime. That, however, doesn't mean the police don't need a search warrant.
There are some very limited cases in which a search warrant isn't necessary. Obviously, police officers can execute a warrantless search if you give consent. Additionally, they can search you and the area around you if they arrest you. They can also do a warrantless search if they fear for their safety or if there is an imminent danger of evidence destruction.
Anyone who has been arrested might question the suitability of a search without a warrant. If you think that an illegal search was done in your case, looking into the possibility lead you to a defense strategy option.
Source: FindLaw, "Searches and Seizures: The Limitations of the Police," accessed Aug. 14, 2015