Search and Seizure Laws in South Carolina – What Are My Rights?

One of the first things an Anderson criminal defense lawyer wants to know during the first appointment is whether the police have already performed search and seizure. South Carolina has clear laws which reinforce your constitutional rights.

If these rights and laws were violated during search and seizure, any evidence obtained in this manner may be inadmissible in court, and this is a solid starting point in your defense. So let us explain your rights under South Carolina search and seizure law, so you can be aware if the police are overstepping their authority.

What Are My Constitutional Rights during a Police Search?

Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, American citizens have the right to be:

  • Free for searches of their persons or property without probable cause
  • Fee from seizure of their persons or property unless there is probable cause that you committed a crime or the property represents evidence of a crime
  • Presented with a warrant issued by a neutral judge who determined that probable cause existed before issuing the respective warrant
  • Shown the warrant describing the place that will be searched, the evidence that will be seized or the person who will be arrested

Of course, there are many exceptions to these rights. In certain situations, the police may perform a search and seize evidence in the absence of a warrant. However, the law enforcement officers must demonstrate that they had probable cause or there was a reasonable suspicion upon which they could act.

How to Act during a Police Search

If you are subject to the search of your home or your person, you should start by asking to see a warrant. The officers are obliged to present it and let you read its contents. If they do not have a warrant, do not consent to the search, but do not resist the officers or prevent them from gaining access to your home or performing a Terry frisk on your person.

Invoke your constitutional right to remain silent and do not answer any questions. However, remain polite, calm and cooperative.

Explaining Probable Cause – the Core Principle in Search and Seizure

Since probable cause represents the initial factor in initiating a search and seizure – with or without a warrant – it would appear natural that there is a clear definition of this concept. Unfortunately, this is not so.

The South Carolina Judicial Branch defines the term as “a state of facts which would lead a man of ordinary care and prudence to believe that the object sought is presently located at the designated place.” The instructions further state that a hunch, a suspicion, a guess or an unfounded opinion does not constitute probable cause.

the police cannot seize evidence without probable cause

On the other hand, The Supreme Court has faced constant challenges in defining the concept and, so far, has not issued a clear and final definition. However, in one of its landmark decisions, in the Illinois v. Gates case, the court stated that probable cause for issuing a warrant should not be analyzed in a hyper-technical manner. The reason for this is that it would discourage the process of seeking warrants, instead of encouraging it.

In conclusion, due to the lack of an exact definition, an experienced attorney may be able to prove lack of probable cause and exclude any evidence obtained during the search from being presented in court.

Understanding the Motor Vehicle Exception in Searches

When you consult with an Anderson criminal defense, you may wonder whether the search of your car was legal since the police presented no warrant. The fact is that, using a loophole in the Fourth Amendment wording, motor vehicles are excluded from the protection granted by the Constitution.

Police officers can act on a mere reasonable suspicion and search any accessible parts of the vehicle (this excludes any locked glove compartments and the trunk).

To avoid any further legal troubles, you should act in the following manner if you are pulled over:

  • Roll down your window and talk to the officer in a calm and polite manner
  • If requested, step out of the vehicle
  • Do not consent to any search of your person or the vehicle
  • Do not interfere with the police officer if they decide to search your car without permission
  • Ask repeatedly if you are free to go

Schedule a Free Case Review with an Experienced Anderson Criminal Defense Lawyer!

If you were subjected to search and seizure and you believe that your rights were violated, talk to an experienced Anderson criminal defense lawyer. However, never try to fight or prevent law enforcement officers from performing the search or seizing any item. You will only aggravate matters, making it harder for the attorney to build your defense.

Call us as soon as possible after the search and seizure to schedule a free case evaluation at: 864-777-4615!

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