In many criminal cases, prosecutors heavily rely on evidence gathered during a police search and seizure to convict you. This evidence often supports their claim that a defendant committed a crime and deserves to face serious consequences.

However, there are instances where law enforcement officials search a home, vehicle, or person without following the proper protocols. An illegal search and seizure attorney at Chopra Criminal Defense can help you argue a Fourth Amendment violation as part of your defense strategy, which can lead to crucial evidence against you to be dismissed from your case entirely.

Search and Seizure Terms to Know

Here are some of the most common phrases related to search and seizure laws in Indiana and what they mean:

  • Search – A procedure where investigators look through a property, part of a property, or a person suspected of committing a crime to find evidence.
  • Seizure – When investigators confiscate (“seize”) evidence during a search that they believe to be relevant to the criminal investigation.
  • Reasonable suspicion – Suspecting that someone is involved in a crime that has been committed, is being committed, or is about to be committed based on specific and objective facts.
  • Probable cause – A higher standard than reasonable suspicion; involves suspecting someone of a crime and having “actual knowledge” that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed.
  • Search warrant – A court order from a judge granting law enforcement permission to conduct a search and seizure because they have probable cause.
  • Motion to suppress – A formal request to exclude certain evidence from a trial supported by the Constitution or state laws.

When Can Police Legally Search Property in Indiana?

Article I, Section 8 of the Indiana Constitution grants everyone the right to a reasonable search and seizure in Indiana, but “reasonable” can mean different things in different situations. The legal requirements for a search and seizure vary based on the location. For example, a police search of your home won’t have the same procedure as a body search.

Here are what police can and cannot legally do under Indiana’s search and seizure laws:

Searching Your Person

If an officer sees you and reasonably suspects you are involved in a crime, they may conduct something called a “terry stop.” This entails stopping you and asking a few questions to investigate the situation.

Police may also conduct a pat-down of your person to check for weapons, but only if they have reasonable suspicion that you are armed and involved in a crime. Sometimes, this is referred to as a “stop and frisk.” If possible, the officer should be the same sex as the suspect they frisk.

With a body search, police must let you go after a reasonable amount of time unless they have probable cause to detain you (i.e., they find evidence on you during the frisk).

Searching Your Vehicle

Police first need reasonable suspicion to pull you over for a traffic stop in Indiana. If you are not suspected of any crimes or traffic violations, police cannot legally stop you. If you are stopped, you do not have to consent to a search of your vehicle.
Officers can only search your vehicle without your consent if they have probable cause that you are involved in a crime. For example, if police smell marijuana, this would give them probable cause to search your vehicle and its compartments for drugs. Any evidence or contraband they find, whether or not it relates to the original cause for the vehicle search, can be confiscated and used against you.

Searching Your Home

Police typically must obtain a warrant before searching and seizing your home. There are exceptions to this rule, such as if you consent to the search, but in most cases, a warrant is required to enter a home and conduct a search.
The warrant should specify where on the property police are allowed to search. If they search outside of these bounds or in a manner that otherwise goes against the warrant, it is considered unlawful for them to do so.

Are Warrantless Searches Legal in Indiana?

Warrantless searches can be legal in some circumstances. Exceptions to the warrant requirement include:

  • Consent – Police can conduct a warrantless search if you explicitly agree.
  • Plain view – Police may seize contraband without a warrant if the evidence is readily apparent and can be detected by any of the senses, including smell and sight.
  • Aerial surveillance – Law enforcement officials can fly over private property to conduct a warrantless search from above, as long as they are in public airspace.
  • Abandoned property – Police do not need a warrant for abandoned property.
  • Exigent circumstances – When an officer must search immediately, they do not need a warrant beforehand. Officers might need to act immediately to prevent the destruction of evidence, track down a fleeing suspect, protect themselves or others from harm, and more.
  • Vehicle searches – Police do not need a warrant to search your vehicle in Indiana if they have probable cause or your consent.

Law enforcement might argue that one or more reasons justify their warrantless search. However, this might not be valid. Your defense attorney can evaluate your case against their claims and determine whether law enforcement was legally allowed to search.

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Your Rights During a Police Stop, Search, or Seizure

The Fourth Amendment protects you against unreasonable search and seizure in the United States. You have every right to decline a police officer’s request to search your property without a warrant. You also have the right to leave if you are not under arrest. If police stop and search you, you can ask if you are being detained. If you are not under arrest, you are free to leave.

You also have the right to remain silent and have an attorney present during questioning. You must know and exercise your rights during an investigation to avoid incriminating yourself.

What if You’re the Subject of an Illegal Search & Seizure

It can be incredibly frustrating when your Fourth Amendment rights are violated, but it can positively impact your case. When you are the victim of an unlawful search and seizure, any evidence obtained during the search will be omitted from your criminal trial. This is called the exclusionary rule.

Without that evidence, a prosecutor could struggle to prove your charges beyond a reasonable doubt. If they lack sufficient evidence, your case could be dismissed entirely.

Hire an Indiana Criminal Defense Attorney

Contact a lawyer immediately if you believe law enforcement violated your Fourth Amendment rights during their investigation. An illegal search and seizure attorney will fight hard to bring you the best possible outcome in your Indiana criminal case and protect your rights moving forward.

As your Indiana defense attorney, Allison Chopra can interview investigators in your case and determine whether they had reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or a warrant to search and seize your property or person. From there, she can file a motion to suppress any evidence they obtained unlawfully and work with you to determine the most suitable defense.

At Chopra Criminal Defense, our team will systematically review your case. Allison can carefully sort through every step of the investigative process—down to each code that law enforcement officials cited to ensure no discrepancies or errors. With this approach, every possible option is considered in your defense.

File a Motion to Suppress

If you were subjected to an unlawful search and seizure, the unlawfully-obtained evidence won’t automatically disappear. You must file a motion to suppress with the court to object to the admission of evidence. A motion should be filed in a timely manner, typically 10 or more days before the jury trial.

As your legal advocate, Allison Chopra can file a motion to suppress evidence on your behalf. By including evidence of your own and citing the Fourth Amendment, we can further support our motion to suppress. If the judge grants our motion, the evidence against you will be pulled from your case, ultimately benefitting your defense at trial.

Were Your Fourth Amendment Rights Violated? Call Chopra Criminal Defense Today.

If you’ve been arrested in Indiana, you might feel like a conviction is inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be. An illegal search and seizure attorney from Chopra Criminal Defense can help you figure out if your Fourth Amendment rights were violated and fight for unlawfully obtained evidence to be dismissed.

Even if you cannot prove an unreasonable search and seizure occurred, other effective defenses are still available. Bloomington defense lawyer Allison Chopra is here to answer any questions, evaluate your charges, and strategize with you on the next steps.

Contact Indiana illegal search and seizure lawyer Allison Chopra today for a free, virtual consultation: (812) 671-0103.