Unlawful Search and Seizure

In Philadelphia, as throughout the country, the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees protection against unlawful search and seizure as a fundamental civil right. Violation of this right not only constitutes a serious infringement of personal liberties but can also lead to troubling personal and legal consequences. At Cooper Schall & Levy, our attorneys are committed to aggressively protecting the rights of our clients. If you have been subjected to unlawful search and seizure, contact us today for the powerful legal representation you need and the strong moral support you deserve.

What Constitutes Unlawful Search and Seizure?

In this country, there are constitutional limits to the rights of law enforcement officials carrying out their duties. One is that police are restricted in their rights relative to searching a person, vehicle, or home. To legally take such action, they must have a warrant that has been sanctioned as supported by probable cause.

Nonetheless, “stop and frisk,” infamous for being applied in a discriminatory manner through racial profiling, remains legal. The most heinous forms of unlawful search and seizure typically take place when police enter and search a home without proper cause or a warrant. Whether you have been victimized by overreaching police on the street, on the road, or in your residence, our legal team may be able to sue to recover damages for your inconvenience, destruction of your property, and emotional pain and humiliation.

Examples of Unlawful Search and Seizure in Philadelphia

We have the in-depth knowledge of state and constitutional law to evaluate your case and determine whether it is viable. If so, we will leverage that knowledge and our considerable litigation skills to increase your chances of recovering damages from the formidable opponent of the law enforcement agency that violated your rights. So, if you have experienced any of the following, it is time to contact our legal team:

  • Search Without a Warrant — Except under exceptional circumstances, searching your property without a warrant is illegal.
  • No Probable Cause If the police search you without a reasonable basis for suspecting you of a crime, it is a violation of your civil rights.
  • Exceeding the Scope of a Warrant — Searching beyond what the warrant specifies is unlawful. In other words, if the police have a warrant to search your backyard or garage, they are not permitted to search your home.

Reasons Unlawful Search and Seizures May Occur

There are several reasons unlawful search and seizures may occur, including:

  • Misinterpretation of the law — Law enforcement officials may misinterpret the scope of their authority under the law.
  • Overzealous law enforcement — Eager to solve crimes or feel dominant or heroic, officers may overstep legal boundaries.
  • Mistaken identity or information — Police may act on incorrect information, leading to unlawful searches.
  • Malicious intent or retaliation — Being a member of law enforcement does not, unfortunately, preclude criminal activity in the form of prejudicial or vindictive behavior.

None of these motivations justifies the violation of your constitutional rights.

Negative Consequences of an Unlawful Search and Seizure

The impact of an unlawful search and seizure can be profound and multifaceted. In addition to the disturbance/fear/embarrassment of the event itself, victims of unlawful search and seizures often suffer:

  • Emotional distress, such as PTSD, reliving the unsettling or terrifying experience again and again with an intensified startle response, panic attacks, physical symptoms, and nightmares. 
  • Insecurity due to violation of privacy leads to a feeling of being constantly unsafe and unprotected from danger, harassment, bullying, or humiliation.
  • Legal repercussions are brought about by illegally obtained evidence that can lead to wrongful accusations and, without proper legal intervention, courtroom battles.
  • Reputational harm due to being observed during the break-in by police, having the event reported in newspapers or broadcast on news reports or posted in social media posts.

Steps Our Attorneys Take to Prove Unlawful Search and Seizure

Our attorneys are well-prepared to do whatever it takes to protect your constitutional rights by: 

  • Gathering evidence, including police reports, witness statements, and police surveillance footage to establish law enforcement mistakes or misrepresentations.
  • Scrutinizing the warrant (if there is one) to check its validity and to determine whether the search undertaken exceeded the warrant’s specific limitations.
  • Establishing a lack of probable cause by ascertaining whether the search conducted was based on reasonable suspicion or was undertaken without reasonable cause.
  • Interviewing witnesses whose testimony supports your claims.

Our legal team will work tirelessly to demonstrate that your rights were violated under Pennsylvania state law and federal civil rights statutes.

Damages We Fight To Recover

If you have been the target of an unlawful search and seizure, our attorneys will be proud to fight for you. As your legal representatives, we fight tooth and nail to obtain damages for your losses, including:

  • Compensatory damages, both economic (for financial losses, e.g. legal fees, property damage, and lost wages) and non-economic (for emotional distress, reputational damage)
  • Punitive Damages, if police officers were especially harsh, abusive, or reckless

Contact Our Dedicated Civil Rights Attorneys Today

Being a victim of unlawful search and seizure can make you feel powerless, but you’re never powerless with Cooper Schall & Levy at your side. Our attorneys are ready to protect you from unlawful search and seizure no matter which law enforcement agency is involved. Get in touch with us so we can begin strategizing how best to protect you from undeserved harassment and upheaval, bring you the compensation you are entitled to, and restore your peace of mind.