Search & Seizure

Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protect individuals from the unlawful search and seizure of their person and property.  As a result of these two provisions, law enforcement officials are not allowed to search an individual’s person or property without a search warrant unless they have probable cause to perform the search. 

The 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects people and not places.  This means that the right to be free from unlawful search and seizure is personal.  Therefore, in most cases, the illegal search and seizure of another person or their property cannot violate the individual’s constitutional rights. 

Under federal law, it is necessary to show that an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the person or property that is searched.  This test focuses on factors such as ownership, access, and the ability to control the property.  Therefore, whatever an individual knowingly exposes in public is not usually given protection from an unlawful search and seizure. 

In most circumstances, if an illegal search and seizure has taken place, the evidence that was collected as part of that search will be thrown out and the charges against the individual will be dismissed.  Most arrests for drug crimes involve a search & seizure.  Therefore, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have been arrested that involved a search and seizure. 

Often cases involving drug offenses, illegal weapons possession, or web/cyber crimes may also involve a search and seizure. This occurs when police or other authorities search a suspect's person, their car, or their home. There are very specific laws governing how and when police may perform a search, so our team of experienced attorneys can help determine if your constitutional rights may have been violated in the process and can file a motion to suppress that evidence.

In some cases, our defense attorneys might choose to file a motion even when it's unlikely that the evidence will be suppressed. This is a strategic move that allows our attorneys to cross-examine police on the record and gain insight into their side of the case. If and when the case moves to trial, that information can be invaluable and help us build a compelling defense. For instance, if a police officer says two different things during the hearing and the trial, then having an inconsistent statement on record from them will often help use prove defendant's innocence.

In a few rare instances, it might be advantageous for the defendant to allow evidence that was seized if the evidence is in their favor. We can advise clients in these types of situations as well.

What should I know about search and seizure?

Many clients assume that they understand their rights regarding search and seizure because they've watched courtroom dramas or police shows on television. However, it's important to always consult an attorney before speaking to police, because the laws change constantly and some defendants unknowingly give the police information that could incriminate them later.

Don't try to bargain or negotiate without having a lawyer present, because you may be bargaining away your rights. Once your constitutional rights have been violated, then your attorney may file a motion to suppress the resulting evidence, but the ideal situation is for you to remain silent. This is your right, and police are required to recite a Miranda warning advising you of this. If you waive your right to remain silent, it can be harder (though not impossible) for us to undo that damage.

In dealing with the police, you need to be respectful and polite, so one of the smartest strategies for avoiding self-incrimination without appearing combative is to explain that your attorney requires you to call him or her before speaking to police. By making your attorney the roadblock, you are cooperating with police but still asserting your rights.

Another important misconception about search and seizure is that illegal substances or weapons only count against you if they are found on your person. This is not the case. In fact, illegal substances or weapons found in your home can be used as evidence against you (assuming they were obtained through the correct legal processes), even if you were not home at the time they were discovered. Likewise, if a suspect is running from the police and throws a bag of cocaine or other illegal substance into the bushes, that suspect can still be held accountable for possessing those substances (especially if the suspect throws the substance in full view of the police, which some do).

Why should I hire Altman & Altman?

Most attorneys understand the basic principles of search and seizure, but many do not understand how to best use a motion to suppress in a smart and strategic fashion. Our team of skilled attorneys understands that cross-examining police during a hearing is also a chance to gather evidence of our own and build your case. We work aggressively and strategically to ensure that your legal rights are upheld.

Our criminal defense attorneys bring over 50 years of experience and are familiar with both sides of the legal process. We take pride in our accessibility and our empathy towards clients. Our phones are answered 24/7 so you can get your questions answered anytime day or night. We have represented clients throughout the greater Boston and surrounding communities, and we're ready to represent your case, too.

If you have recently been arrested and feel that you have been a victim of an illegal search and seizure, call our Boston Massachusetts criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation. We have been representing the rights of the citizens of the Commonwealth for over 40 years. Our criminal lawyers are available around the clock seven days a week give us a call at 617.492.3000 for a free case consultation.

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Dear Sam, I can not thank you enough for your expertise in the handling of Chris's case as well as your sensitivity and caring attitude. toward him. I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. He really expressed how good it felt to be able to talk to you! Sincerely and may God bless you.
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I really appreciate your prompt and highly effective assistance on this matter. After six different OUI attorneys told me that there was no way to recall the warrant and dismiss the charges against me without me returning to Mass from California, you managed to accomplish what they said was impossible. Thanks again! - Neil D., Boston, MA
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