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When Do You Have a Search Issue in a Federal Criminal Case?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Jul 19, 2022

The federal government is arresting many people based on searches conducted of their person, property, car, or home, and they're wondering whether or not the feds acted appropriately when they searched.

Because obviously, the search yielded something against them – whether it be drugs, stolen property, illegal property, or anything that will be used to prosecute them federally.

Unlawful Searches in a Federal Criminal Case

When a federal law enforcement agency, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has a reason to believe you committed a crime, they can ask the court for a warrant to search your property. If you're involved in a federal criminal investigation, you could have federal law enforcement agents knock on your door.

So, we look at what is necessary for the federal government to search for somebody lawfully.  The answer as to whether or not the feds can search anybody, anytime, for any reason is that they can't.

But, they realize that defense attorneys like me, when they get a case, we are going to figure out a way to say that the stop and search were illegal, such as in a:

  • search of a car,
  • search of a home, and
  • a stop and a search of a person.

We'll file a motion in federal court.  We'll file declarations and ultimately try to get a hearing in front of a federal judge, make the agents take the witness stand so that we can cross-examine them, and try to challenge whether or not that search was, in fact, legal.  Our federal criminal defense lawyers will examine this topic in more detail below.

What Are the Fourth Amendment Protections?

There are, of course, rules that relate to searches.  There is case law from the Supreme Court of the United States, which is the law of the land that governs what the rules are related to searches.

I can tell you right now, having done this for nearly 30 years, and fought searches all over the country, that there are all sorts of different scenarios that present themselves when it comes to searches, and therefore, there are all sorts of rules and laws and ways of looking at a particular situation.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable search and seizure. It requires a search warrant to be judicially sanctioned, and it must be supported by probable cause. It states:

  • “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, will not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The Fourth Amendment protects different types of expectations related to a federal warrant, including searches and other seizures:

  • A search occurs when the reasonable expectation of privacy is infringed;
  • Seizing property occurring when there is the interference;
  • Seizure of someone when there is interference with their freedom.

Our federal criminal attorneys will ensure your rights under the Fourth Amendment are protected and can challenge the legality of a search and seizure of a person or property when appropriate.

Why Should You Meet with a Lawyer Immediately?

What you have to do if you're charged with a federal case and you're looking for an attorney because you think you might have a search issue is I would either discuss it with you over the phone, or we'll have you come in face to face, which is the best way to do it.  Meeting a defense lawyer immediately could be crucial to the case's outcome.

White Collar Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

You'll give me a rundown of what happened leading up to the search and how the search was executed, what was said, what was found, and then we'll talk about whether or not that was lawfully done.

Of course, you will have your perspective, and the federal government will also have its viewpoint.  So, the pieces of the puzzle that I'm going to need to begin to evaluate things are:

  • First, your story regarding the federal search, and then I'm going to look at the law related to cases that are triggered based on what happened in your circumstance;
  • Then, we'll use common sense and see whether or not the authorities had probable cause to stop you and search you; and
  • Lastly, we'll examine the evidence they have against you and the authority's version of events.

We need that piece of the puzzle — whether the authorities lie, exaggerate or manipulate the facts — we're going to assume they will do that. Still, we need to know their position because once we have your position, their position, and the case law, now we can start to evaluate and potentially challenge an illegal search.

Contact our Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys for Help

So, I encourage you, if you or a loved one has a federal criminal case pending and you believe that something unlawful was done with the search, let's get you in and talk about everything and let's get a game plan together about how we're going to attack the search potentially.

Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys

Sometimes we're in a position where I can start investigating the illegal search right away and gather evidence and witnesses so we can be prepared at the right time to challenge that search.

Other times, once we talk about everything and flush everything out, we realize that the search was not unlawful and that the police acted appropriately. You're not going to be able to challenge the search effectively.

So, we have to come up with a different angle, a different game plan on how we will handle your federal criminal case.  But you want to know as soon as possible.

You don't want to be under some false assumption that you can win your case based on an illegal search. You are barking up the wrong tree because you're not a federal criminal attorney who knows how to challenge a federal search appropriately.

So, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I have 30 years of experience dealing with cases just like yours. The Hedding Law Firm is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm representing clients nationwide against any federal crime. We offer a free case consultation by phone, or you can fill out the contact form.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.