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I'm facing criminal charges -- can an officer search my property?

In general, a police officer in Georgia is required to have a search warrant before searching and seizing any of your personal property. This is due to the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is meant to protect American citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. If you are facing criminal charges and are concerned that an officer may have illegally searched your property, the following may be of help.

If a police officer has a search warrant, then they are legally able to enter the designated location in order to search for and seize property as per the terms of the warrant. The warrant must be issued by a judge who has determined that there is a probable cause or a justified reason. However, a search may also legally be conducted if it is deemed justifiable by the situation.

Additionally, a search warrant or otherwise justifiable situation is only necessary when you have a reasonable expectation to privacy. The interior of your privately owned vehicle or your house are usually considered private and where you would have the expectation of your personal possessions being private. However, once your property is located somewhere that you generally don’t expect privacy -- such as your front lawn or other space that is easily viewed by the public -- then a search warrant may not be necessary.

If a search warrant was not used to seize property that was located within your home or somewhere else where you may legitimately expect privacy, it is possible that this evidence can be ruled inadmissible in court. However, even if it is thrown out, while it may not be used to pursue criminal charges against you, it could possibly be used in other instances, such as civil claims. If you suspect that a Georgia police officer seized evidence unlawfully, it is possible to pursue the opportunity to have it thrown out of the case.

Source: FindLaw, "Search Warrant Requirements", , Aug. 30, 2014

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