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Search and Seizure in Ohio

Many of us know what it is like to have an encounter with the police.  But fewer of us have had an experience that involves search and seizure.  Therefore, many readers may have unanswered questions about search and seizure.  Even people who have experienced a search and seizure may have questions about it.  There are many questions on the topic which we will have to leave for future articles, but we will give an overview of some of the general  questions here.

What are the Rules for Search and Seizure in Ohio?

To some extent, the rules of search and seizure are governed at the federal level.  Specifically, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  The Fourth Amendment has this to say about search and seizure:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

As we discuss in the next section, Ohio has its own Constitution with similar statements about search and seizure.  Like any state, Ohio is subject to the Constitution of the United States as well as its own State Constitution.  Therefore, its laws about search and seizure have to be in keeping with the Fourth Amendment.

Now the specific rules for every situation depend largely on how the State and Federal Supreme Courts have interpreted the language in Ohio’s Constitution and the Constitution of the United States.   We will hopefully wright articles in the future that cover the rules in a more specific way.

What does the Ohio Constitution Say About Search and Seizure?

While the Constitution of the United States applies to the country as a whole, each state has their own constitution where they lay out certain rules for specific situations.  Sometimes the statements in a state’s  Constitution are largely redundant of the statements in the Constitution of the United States.  This is the case with search and seizure in Ohio.  When it comes to search and seizure laws, the Ohio Constitution states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and possessions, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue , but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person and things to be seized.”

Beyond the actual wording in the Constitution, some additional rulings are required to govern the many types of situations where search and seizure comes into play.  We will hopefully write more articles soon that can get more specific.  Oftentimes, if there is a question as to the legitimacy of a particular search and seizure, the Courts and/or police departments have to rely on decisions from previous cases in front of the Supreme Court.

What is an Unreasonable Search and Seizure?

As we stated in the last section, the reasonableness of a particular search and seizure depends a lot on the factors of the situation and how previous cases apply to the situation in light of the statements in the Constitution.  Generally speaking, an unreasonable search and seizure is anytime law enforcement fails to follow the proper procedure before searching an individual’s possessions and/or taking control of their findings.

What is an Example of Illegal Search and Seizure?

There are many examples of instances of search and seizure which are unreasonable and therefore illegal.  As we said before, we hope we can address some of them more specifically in future articles.  As a simple example, a search and seizure would usually be unreasonable if the police came into your house with no warrant, no probable cause, or your permission.  While there are rules, the police know more about the search and seizure laws than just about anyone else, and the vast majority of the time, they follow the rules.  For this reason, and many other reasons, the best place to challenge a search and seizure is almost always in Court after the fact.  The police are usually not in the wrong from a legal standpoint, and even if they are, you can create a legitimate legal case against yourself by resisting the police.

What Constitutes Probable Cause in Ohio?

Probable cause is one of many aspects that determine whether a search and seizure (and other legal procedures) are legitimate.  Like many other topics in this article, the actual definition is complicated.  Generally speaking, if you appear to be violating the law, you could be subject to search and/or seizure based on probable cause.  Once again, if you are searched based on probable cause, the best place to challenge the probable cause is usually in Court.

Conclusion

Search and seizure can be scary as it is happening, especially if it results in evidence against you.  Even there is no evidence against you, it can seem like an uncomfortable experience whether it has happened to you before or not.  It makes sense that people would have questions about search and seizure, but the answers to those questions often depend on the situation.  If you have been the subject of a search and seizure and have questions about it, or any other legal questions, feel free to contact the expert attorneys at Dearie, Fischer, and Matthews.

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