The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by government authorities, including federal agencies and local law enforcement. Unfortunately, police officers don’t seem to worry much about violating these rights.
Those accused of a crime or just suspected by a particularly motivated officer could find themselves subject to intrusive searches and possibly even the seizure of their private property. You may wonder if the actions of the police officers who searched you or seized your property were actually legal.
What are some of the ways that police officers violate your right to be free from unnecessary searches and seizures?
Through civil asset forfeiture
Georgia’s laws are some of the worst in the country when it comes to civil asset forfeiture. There is a financial incentive for police officers to make claims against individuals or businesses so that they can seize private property ranging from cash found in someone’s vehicle to real estate.
When the police claim that someone obtained property through criminal activity or that they used the property as part of a criminal enterprise, such as growing marijuana in a home, the police can then seize that property. They may eventually sell the assets at auction to fund their department. In fact, the state can potentially retain assets even if they never convict someone or even charge them with a crime.
Through inappropriate searches
There are rules that apply to searches. For example, a police officer should only pat you down or frisk you if they suspect that you have a weapon. They can only search your vehicle with a warrant, your permission or probable cause to suspect criminal activity. Similar rules apply to your home.
Officers may try to trick you into waiving your rights or may conduct a search with neither permission nor warrant in a way that violates your rights. Keeping information about the search or property seizure that you believe violated your rights can help you take action in court. An inappropriate search could have a significant impact on your criminal defense options.
Knowing your rights and how the police might try to violate them can help you fight back when you face criminal charges or lose property to a police seizure.