Many Pennsylvania residents know that authorities cannot illegally search a person or their belongings and property. If they do, any evidence that is found may be inadmissible in court. In many cases this is true, but there are some exceptions.
The Fourth Amendment protects people against unreasonable searches or seizures. Usually, this means that law enforcement or government agencies must have a search warrant. In general, though, this only applies to places that are expected to be private, such as a person’s home or vehicle. If the place where evidence was found was public or within the open view of the public, authorities may have the right to seize items located there without first obtaining a search warrant.
Additionally, it is important to note that the Fourth Amendment only applies to the government. Any evidence that is found by a private agent, such as a security guard, can be used in a criminal trial. If a person working for the government illegally searches through a person’s belongings, any evidence that they find will not be admissible in court. However, that evidence can still potentially be used in civil cases.
When the authorities believe that people might be involved in drug distribution, they may obtain a search warrant that allows them to search their belongings or property. If, for some reason, the authorities did not have probable cause to do the search, a criminal law attorney may argue that it was illegal. If this argument is successful, any evidence that was discovered during the search may become inadmissible in court.