Search & Seizure - Defined

What is a "Search" or "Seizure" for Purposes of Constitutional Protection?

When you receive as many telephone calls as the lawyers at our firm every year, issues concerning whether an encounter with a police officer constituted a search invariably crop up. Indeed, the are situations where a perspective client does not even realize that he has been searched in some form, for example, when a police officer looks through his or her garbage or a dog sniffs luggage, to name a few. There are also those instances where a suspect has no idea that police subjected him or her to a “seizure”. What is important to know in this regard is that where either of these things transpire in an encounter with police, protections are afforded an individual to insure that law enforcement does not act unreasonable and/or violating the law. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are highly knowledgeable in search issues and are available to review your case anytime 24/7. If you think you may have been subjected to a search, a lawyer at our firm will be happy to provide you with the information you need to determine whether your rights were violated. An improper police search is nothing you should just ignore as initial consultations with an attorney on our defense team are free of charge. Give us a call at 1-877-450-8301 to discuss your Monmouth County, Union County, Ocean County, Middlesex County, Essex County, Hudson County, Passaic County, Morris County, or Bergen County case. We hope you find the legal information that follows of assistance.

An individual is afforded constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure by police. This translates into a requirement under New Jersey Search & Seizure Law that police either possess a warrant or that an exception to this requirement apply if they are going to seize property or subject an individual to a search. If police fail to adhere to this standard, the related search or, for that matter, an ensuing seizure, will be excluded from evidence provided a Motion to Suppress is filed. But when is an encounter a “search” or even a step further, a “seizure”, such that the Warrant Requirement applies?

When Does a “Seizure” Occur?

A “seizure” occurs when there is interference with an individual’s possession of property. A individual’s person or liberty may also be seized, for example, where he is questioned under circumstances where a reasonable person would not feel that they are free to refuse and/or terminate the encounter (e.g. police use force or show authority in a manner that it reasonably appears you are not free to leave).

When Does a “Search” Take Place?

A search occurs when law enforcement intrudes into an area where there is a reasonable “expectation of privacy”. These areas are what the law refers to as Privacy Rights. Examples of less obvious activities which constitute searches include:

  1. Patting or squeezing a handbag or luggage;
  2. Surveillance utilizing certain enhanced technology to see into or areas which typically would not be viewable by normal site;
  3. Subjecting an individual to ultraviolet light to detect something ;
  4. Police taking a suspect’s car keys to see if they fit into the ignition of a stolen car.

If you would like to speak to a lawyer from our firm, we can be reached at 1-877-450-8301. Attorneys are always available 24/7 without charge to consult with potential new clients without charge. Get the answers you deserve from one of our aggressive and experienced lawyers now.