Search and Seizure in Pennsylvania

Search and Seizure in Pennsylvania

What Are the Pennsylvania Search and Seizure Laws?

The Pennsylvania Constitution ensures that residents of the state are protected from unreasonable search and seizure whether it involves a person, possessions, papers or homes. Probable cause is necessary for police to conduct search and seizure under the 4th Amendment, which helps provide protection from unreasonable searches. When your constitutional rights are violated, the search and seizure that was performed may be unconstitutional and inadmissible in court.

What Is Search and Seizure?

There are a number of ways in which police collect evidence. In addition to examining the crime scene and interviewing witnesses, they may conduct search and seizure by checking a person’s body, going through their belongings, their vehicle, home or even their business looking for evidence. A warrant is issued for “probable cause” if police can show there is a good chance that evidence pointing toward the crime will be found. 

Keep in mind that being frisked is not considered a part of search and seizure and is not protected by the Constitution, but this only involves the outer clothing being checked. Any search more intrusive requires the issuance of a warrant.

Probable Cause Is Usually Determined on a Case-by-Case Basis

There really is no set definition of probable cause under the 4th Amendment. For this reason, Pennsylvania courts decide whether probable cause exists on each separate case and may be more lenient in granting a warrant if the criminal offense is serious. 

Warrants Aren’t Required in All Circumstances

There are exceptions for police to require a warrant before performing a search and seizure, which include:

  • If the crime suspect agrees to a search, police do not have to acquire a warrant.
  • If police see an ongoing criminal activity as it is happening, they do not need a warrant.
  • If an individual’s life is in danger, a warrant is not required for police to step in.
  • During the pursuit of a criminal, police do not need a warrant to enter a residence to capture them.
  • Police may search trash or other refuse bins without a warrant because the items inside would be considered abandoned.

Why Is Illegal Search and Seizure Important to My Case?

Evidence that is gathered by police against you without a warrant or illegally obtained cannot be used against you in a court of law because it violates your Constitutional rights. However, just because it was obtained illegally doesn’t mean the prosecution won’t try to use it anyway. This is where your criminal defense attorney comes in. Their job is to defend you in court, including insisting on the exclusion of evidence that was illegally obtained. Providing your defense lawyer with details about the search and seizure conducted on yourself, belongings, home and/or business can make a big difference in your case. 

Travis Law Firm – Defending Your Right to a Fair Trial

Travis Law is here to help when you are facing criminal charges and the evidence against you was gathered illegally. You need a defense attorney who will stand up for your rights and fight. Contact us at the Travis Law Firm at (814) 277-2222. You can also contact us online.