Reviewing Issues Regarding Arrest Warrants
Our attorneys look for weaknesses in the prosecution's case. One way we do this is to determine whether or not the government has executed any searches or seizures during its investigation of the case.
The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits "unreasonable" searches and seizures. When the government intrudes into an area in which a person has a "reasonable expectation of privacy, " the government has conducted a "search." A seizure of an item occurs when the government interferes meaningfully with a person's possessory interest in that item. A person is seized when they are not reasonably free to leave. Seizures of persons are broken down further into categories including investigatory stops or detentions to full blown arrests.
In order for the government to legally search a person or seize their property it must generally secure a valid warrant from a neutral and detached judge. In the absence of such a warrant, a government search or seizure must fall within a narrow category of recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement in order for the search or seizure to be lawful. The importance of the lawfulness of the search or seizure cannot be overstated. If the search or seizure is deemed unlawful, then any evidence gained, or even later derived from the unlawful search or seizure may be subject to suppression. When evidence is ordered suppressed it cannot be used by the government in the prosecution of its case.
Searches and seizures fall into two broad categories. Those conducted pursuant to a warrant and those conducted without such a warrant. The government generally bears the burden of demonstrating the lawfulness of a warrantless search or seizure. The accused must generally demonstrate the unlawful nature of a search or seizure conducted pursuant to a warrant.
Under federal law the exclusion or suppression of evidence that is seized pursuant to a search warrant is far more difficult than in Oregon state courts. Exclusion of evidence in federal court is said to be a drastic remedy only granted in cases where police misconduct must be deterred. Federal law thus recognizes a "Good Faith Exception" whereby evidence seized under an invalid warrant will not be suppressed as long as the government relied in good faith on the lawfulness of the warrant. The suppression of evidence seized in a warrantless search or seizure is more readily obtained.
Types of warrantless searches and seizures common to federal criminal defense include:
- Searches and seizures based on the consent of the accused
- Searches and seizures incident to the arrest of the accused
- Searches and seizures based on probable cause and the existence of exigent or emergency circumstances
- Inventory searches and seizures
This list is by no means exclusive, but it highlights the fact that every encounter with law enforcement needs to be analyzed closely by an experienced defense lawyer for potential search and seizure issues. Each type of search and seizure has developed its own body of law and legal precedent with which a federal criminal defense attorney must be familiar.
When we determine that evidence against a client may have been obtained illegally, we file motions to suppress that evidence. Because the law and practice related to unlawful searches and seizures is different in federal court than in state court, it is particularly important to have an attorney with solid federal criminal experience. Understanding the differences improves the likelihood of success.
Call a Federal Search and Seizure Attorney
Our Portland law firm is committed to providing the highest-quality defense at reasonable rates. As a federal criminal defense law firm, we are dedicated to protecting our clients' rights throughout the legal process. We offer a free initial consultation. Call our law firm toll free at 1-888-311-2016 or send us an e-mail.