How To Prevent Unlawful Search and Seizure in New York City

Search and Seizure in New York City

As an American resident, you have a right to certain forms of privacy. The police cannot search your person or property without reasonable cause or a search warrant. So, what happens when a police officer oversteps their bounds? 

If you believe a police officer or government authority unlawfully searched and seized your property, you may be able to request that the evidence they find be inadmissible. Your New York City police misconduct lawyer can help you understand your rights and options after an unlawful search and seizure and even seek compensation. But one proactive measure you can start with is learning how to prevent future incidents. 

Learn more about unlawful search and seizure, and how to prevent it, below. 

What Is Unlawful Search and Seizure?

The Fourth Amendment protects civilians against unreasonable searches and seizures of their properties by government authorities. In many cases, a police officer will need a search warrant before they can search your property, which is a court order signed by a judge agreeing that the officer has reasonable cause to search the property. The search warrant will indicate specific areas the officer can search, and they cannot stray outside these areas. 

But there are a few instances in which an officer can search a property without a search warrant:

  • An adult with authority over the property gives the officer permission to search. 
  • The search follows a lawful arrest. (After you are arrested, the officer may search your person and any area within your grab and reach.) 
  • The officer has probable cause to search in light of exigent circumstances. 
  • The items are in plain view. 

If an officer searches your person or property outside of a search warrant, and none of the above circumstances are true, they may have committed an unlawful search and seizure. 

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) is one of the largest police departments in the U.S., employing approximately 36,000 officers. With this many officers in the department, unlawful searches and seizures happen across the city more often than you would think. In 2022, as many as three in four people stopped by NYPD were searched, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union

How To Prevent Unlawful Search and Seizure 

What do you do when an officer informs you they are going to search your person or property, but you don’t think they have reasonable cause to do so? Resisting unlawful search and seizure may be scary, but remember that it is entirely within the law to exercise your Constitutional rights. Review these tips to prevent unlawful seizure and ensure you are prepared should this situation happen again. 

Know Your Rights

The Constitution protects your right to refuse illegal search or seizure, and you can state this right to the officer.

Some officers attempt to abuse their power because they believe civilians don’t know how much authority they actually have. Even stating that you know your rights and that you believe the officer is violating them could lead the officer to seek a search warrant instead of unlawfully searching and seizing your property. 

Refuse the Search 

An officer may attempt to slyly seek your permission to search your property so that they can avoid needing to secure a search warrant. They may casually ask, “Is it okay if I come in?” or “Mind if I take a look?” without actually stating their purpose for being there. You may refuse these requests with a simple “No” without worrying that doing so would make you look guilty. 

Refusing the search won’t always work. The officer may move forward with the search despite your protests, whether they do so lawfully or not.

But remember that as many as 24,000 officers in NYC wear body cameras while performing their patrol duties. Even stating your concerns about an officer violating your rights could serve as powerful evidence when you move to have the evidence they recover dismissed. 

Motion To Dismiss the Recovered Evidence 

If an officer proceeded with a search and seizure without a warrant or reasonable cause, the evidence they collected won’t be admissible in court. Your NYC police misconduct attorney can help you move to dismiss this evidence should the officer file any charges against you. 

Only evidence that was secured lawfully can be used in a court of law. Even if an officer found something potentially incriminating while conducting your search and seizure, they can’t admit it to court if they secured it unlawfully. 

Contact an NYC Police Misconduct Lawyer Today

Unlawful search and seizure is all too common in New York City, but knowing your rights and refusing unreasonable searches can help you prevent them. If an officer or government authority has already unlawfully searched and seized your property, your next step is to hire legal counsel. 

Our attorneys at Ross & Hill can help you dismiss the evidence collected and even seek compensation for any property damage or lost income you incurred. Contact us today at 718-855-2324 for your 100% free consultation. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if a Fourth Amendment right is violated? 

If an officer or government authority violates your Fourth Amendment rights by unlawfully searching and seizing your property, any evidence they collect is inadmissible in court. They cannot use this evidence against you. 

Can you seek compensation after an unlawful search and seizure? 

You may be able to seek compensation after an unlawful search and seizure if the event caused monetary damages. For example, if the officer damaged your property or trashed your house, you could seek compensation to cover this expense. 

How can a police misconduct lawyer assist after unlawful search and seizure? 

An attorney can help protect your rights, retroactively and moving forward, to prevent an unlawful search and seizure from bringing you harm. They can help you understand whether you have a case for compensation as well. 

Learn more about the reality of police misconduct in NYC by checking out our recent blog post. 

About The Author

Let us know how we can help you.

Fill out the form to send us a message.