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When is law enforcement allowed to initiate search & seizure?

Search and seizure is a controversial practice, but it is also one of the most commonly employed by police. The term refers to an incident in which law enforcement searches a person or property under the pretense of investigating a suspected crime. Although this procedure is a necessity in many instances, it can also be abused or executed in a way that is unfair to its subject. According to KUTV, a Utah search and seizure case has made it all the way to the Supreme Court. It is not uncommon for legal disputes to follow such incidents, and it is essential to understand what parameters define the legality of a search and seizure. Following are a few examples.

Using a search warrant

If police actually have a search warrant, they are legally free to search the premises or persons specified in the warrant. A search warrant should be approved by a judge and should identify the exact location the search is authorized for as well as what items or evidence are being sought. To obtain such a warrant, police must present the case for the probable cause of a crime. 

With an arrest warrant

Law enforcement agents are also authorized to initiate a search and seizure if a valid arrest warrant is in place. Unlike a search warrant, however, an arrest warrant does not specify the area an officer is permitted to search. This is an area that may lend itself to abuse--with no formal parameters for the search, an arrest warrant might allow law enforcement to take inappropriate liberties.

Probable cause of crime

Perhaps the most dubious of all justifications cited for search and seizure is that of probable cause. The ambiguity of the term makes it open to interpretation--and potential abuse, too. Police have been accused of fabricating probable cause to perform unreasonable search and seizures. If you have been a victim of such treatment, you should be aware of your legal rights.

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