When dealing with law enforcement, be aware of your rights. At Ghanayem & Rayasam, one of the most common questions we hear concerns police searches. Protections under both the Federal and Georgia State constitutions protect you and prevent abuses from taking place. Find out when a search can take place and how to handle the situation.
When Police are Permitted to Search You, Your Home, or Other Property
Even if you have done nothing wrong, being subjected to a police search is a nerve-wracking experience. Unfortunately, abuses of power occur on a regular basis, with outcomes ranging from improper arrests to acts of violence. To protect yourself, be aware of your legal rights.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prevents police or other officials from unlawfully detaining people and making unreasonable searches and seizures. The Georgia Constitution provides similar protections. The keyword is ‘unreasonable’. The police are permitted to stop, search you, and seize personal items or property in the following situations:
- Probable cause: This means there are facts and circumstances to indicate that a crime has taken place, and you may be involved.
- Reasonable suspicion: This is enough for police to stop you but not to conduct a search or arrest. The exception is Terry Stops, based on a Supreme Court case, which gives officers the right to pat down people who are suspected of being armed and to confiscate contraband.
- Search warrants: A warrant issued through a judge gives law enforcement the right to conduct a search, but the area is limited by the terms of the warrant.
- During arrest: To protect themselves and prevent the destruction of evidence, the police may conduct a search without a warrant in the process of making an arrest.
Protecting Yourself Against Illegal Searches in Atlanta
In addition to the above, police may search you or your property with your consent, but you do not have to give it. Unfortunately, police may conduct a search anyway, in clear violation of your rights. The top priority in this situation is to protect yourself and your personal safety. Our Atlanta criminal lawyers recommend following these tips:
- Do your best to remain calm throughout the incident;
- Do not raise your voice, make aggressive gestures, or otherwise appear to resist;
- Calmly and firmly state you do not consent to a search;
- Look carefully at any warrants they present, paying close attention to the area authorized for a search;
- Make note of important details, such as the names of the officers, their jurisdiction, how they conducted themselves during the search, and any items seized.
Contact Our Atlanta Criminal Lawyers Right Away
If you have been the victim of an illegal search or seizure in Fulton County, reach out to our legal team at Ghanayem & Rayasam right away. We can build the strong legal defense you need by reviewing your case, the actions of the officers at the time, and any evidence collected against you. Call or contact our Atlanta criminal lawyers online and request a consultation today.