From the perspective of a criminal defense attorney, the risk for illegal search is a significant threat in Utah.
Although the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — as well as Utah’s Constitution — protect you from illegal search and seizure, in practice, it happens frequently.
The Standard of Probable Cause in Search and Seizure
As a matter of course, law enforcement officers must have probable cause to obtain a search warrant, and have that warrant in hand before conducting a search.
Unfortunately, Utah allows a number of exceptions to this general rule.
You can be searched if the officer states that he or she has a reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion means that, although officers lack true probable cause, they have knowledge of some fact that leads them to believe a crime is being or has been committed.
They also can search with impunity if you provide your consent, or in the case of your home, if someone else who lives there provides consent. If they observe something in plain sight, they have the right to search as well. They also can cite emergency circumstances, which can constitute a variety of conditions.
In other words, law enforcement officers have a great deal of latitude to conduct a warrantless search of your home, automobile or person.
The Allowable Scope of a Search
The law states that, if an officer has an exception that allows for a search, he or she is limited in scope by the nature of whatever raised the officer’s suspicion.
For example, if you are involved in an auto accident and the officer believes that you were texting and driving, he or she may have the legal right to look for your phone. If the officers find your phone in your pants or jacket pocket, they cannot continue to search your car.
Proving Illegal Search and Seizure in Utah
It’s important for you to understand your rights before you find yourself in a situation that may involve an illegal search.
But in many cases, even those who know their rights are subjected to illegal searches. In that case, it’s critical that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. An aggressive criminal defense lawyer can determine quickly if your constitutional rights have been violated.
An experienced attorney also will have the resources on hand to act quickly on your behalf to prove that you were the victim of an illegal search. If any evidence was illegally obtained, it is not admissible in court — as long as your criminal defense attorney can prove that it was not obtained legally.
The Law Office of David Paul White has extensive experience in defending clients whose legal rights have been violated in the course of an illegal search and seizure. Contact us today for a free consultation and review of your case.
We have two convenient Northern Utah locations to serve you, in Salt Lake City and St. George. Trust us whenever you need an experienced, aggressive Utah criminal defense attorney.