Police Knocking on the doors

Florida’s Search and Seizure Laws 

Venessa Bornost, P.A. May 31, 2023

Search and seizure laws are essential in the United States. These laws serve as a fundamental element in the American legal system, ensuring that the police and other law enforcement agencies cannot arbitrarily violate citizens’ constitutional rights. 

The law on search in seizure is comprehensive at the federal level as well as the state level in Florida. As a criminal defense attorney with decades of legal experience, I can help you understand your rights and will fight tirelessly to get the charges against you dropped or dismissed. From my office in Dunedin, Florida, I serve Hillsborough and Pasco Counties. Set up a consultation today. 

Your Rights Under the Fourth Amendment  

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the cornerstone of search and seizure laws. It provides legal protection against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. Under the Fourth Amendment, individuals have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects unless there is probable cause for a search or seizure.  

This means that law enforcement agencies cannot simply enter your home, vehicle, or person and conduct a search without a warrant or probable cause. 

Warranted Search and Seizure 

While the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches, there are situations where a search and seizure would be legal.  

  • Warrant. One of the most common situations is when a police officer has a valid and timely search warrant. A warrant can be obtained if there is probable cause to suspect criminal activity, and the scope of the search is limited to specific areas described in the warrant.  

  • Crime. Searches and seizures may also be legal if an officer has probable cause to believe that a crime is being committed at the time and that the evidence of this crime will be found in a particular location. 

Probable cause is a legal standard that refers to the requirement of sufficient evidence to justify a search or seizure. When an officer has probable cause, they have a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed, is being committed, or will be committed. To establish probable cause, the officer needs to prove that the evidence available suggests that there is reasonable cause for an officer to conduct a search or seize certain items. 

Valid Searches and Seizures Without Warrants

There are four types of searches and seizures that are considered valid without warrants in the United States. These include: 

  1. Consent. If a person consents to a search, the police can conduct the search without a warrant. However, the consent must be voluntary and given by someone with the authority to consent. 

  1. Plain view. If the police see something illegal in plain view while conducting an otherwise lawful activity, such as a traffic stop, they can seize the evidence without a warrant. 

  1. Exigent circumstances. If the police believe that a delay in obtaining a warrant would result in the destruction of evidence, harm to themselves or others, or the escape of a suspect, they can conduct a search without a warrant. 

  1. Hot pursuit. If the police are in hot pursuit of a suspect who enters a private property, they can enter the property without a warrant and conduct a search. 

If you believe that your rights under federal law or Florida’s search and seizure laws were violated, contact an attorney immediately.  

Understanding the Exclusionary Rule

It’s important to understand something called the exclusionary rule. This is a legal doctrine that prohibits the prosecution from using evidence obtained during unlawful searches or seizures in court. In other words, if the police conduct a search or seizure without a warrant or probable cause, any evidence obtained through that search or seizure cannot be used against the defendant in court. The exclusionary rule serves as a deterrent against unlawful searches and seizures and protects citizens’ constitutional rights. 

It is worth noting that the exclusionary rule is not an absolute rule, and there are exceptions to its application. For example, if the police can show that they would have discovered the evidence anyway, even if the search or seizure was unlawful, the evidence might still be admissible in court. 

If Your Constitutional Rights Were Violated

If your rights have been violated and law enforcement officers perform an illegal search or seizure, the evidence obtained during that search or seizure will be inadmissible in court. When an officer violates your rights, you have the right to sue the officer and department involved in the search or seizure. You can also file a complaint against the officer with the Department of Justice. Consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine your best course of action. 

Discuss Your Rights with an Attorney

Understanding Florida’s search and seizure laws is crucial in ensuring that you protect yourself and your rights. No matter your particular situation, it is essential to be aware of and assert your legal rights. If you believe that your constitutional rights were violated, reach out to my office at Venessa Bornost, P.A., to discuss your case.