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Unreasonable Seizure Can Dismiss Criminal Evidence

Posted on in Criminal Law

Unreasonable Seizure Can Dismiss Criminal EvidenceHow long are police allowed to wait before requesting a warrant to search a computer they have seized as criminal evidence? An Illinois court determined that eight months is too long in a recent criminal case and suppressed the evidence found on the computer. In People v. McGregory, the state accused the defendant of manufacturing fraudulent credit cards to commit identity theft, based on evidence from equipment seized during an unrelated warrant search of his home. To understand the facts of this case, it may help to start with an explanation of rules regarding searches and seizures.

Lawful Searches

The U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment states that citizens shall not be subject to unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. This means police must obtain a warrant to conduct a search of someone that they have probable cause to believe has committed a crime. A warrant authorizes police to search at a specified location and seize specified items that are related to the suspected crime. However, the police may be allowed to seize unspecified items during a lawful search if:

  • They are in plain view.
  • There is probable cause to believe that the items were used in committing a crime.

In People v. McGregory, the police officer had a warrant to search for drugs and weapons but saw equipment that is used to make fake credit cards and cards that had names of people other than the defendant.

Unreasonable Seizure

What made the seizure of the computer unreasonable was that law enforcement had possession of the computer for eight months before they requested a warrant to search the information on it. The computer was seized during a city police investigation, but a federal agent was the one in charge of the identity theft investigation. Prosecutors explained that the warrant was delayed while determining which department would handle the investigation and then tracking down where the computer was being stored. The court ruled that there was an unreasonable amount of time between when the computer was seized and the warrant was requested, which is a problem because:

  • It infringes on the possessory interest of the defendant.
  • The court issuing the warrant cannot promptly evaluate whether the seizure was legal.

Contact a Crystal Lake Criminal Defense Attorney

Though no one wants to be served a search warrant, the process protects your civil liberties by making law enforcement justify their intrusion on your life and seizure of your property. A McHenry County criminal defense lawyer at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can recognize when you were the victim of an illegal search or seizure and will make sure you receive a fair trial. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.



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