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Search violations can lead to dismissal of charges

When we watch TV and movies about crime investigations, the process of executing a search can look different on screen than it is in real life. What we usually see is a search warrant being handed over to someone and a stream of officers entering a home or building and searching through everything.

In reality, the scope of a search warrant can be very specific and limited to certain places, objects or investigations. Law enforcement agencies must contain their searches appropriately in order to stay in compliance with the warrant. If they fail to do this, any charges stemming from evidence collected improperly can be dismissed.

Recently, for example, federal agents conducted a search of a Florida doctor's clinic. The warrant the agents had allowed them to search the clinic and collect any information regarding allegations of Medicare billing fraud.

However, an agent apparently also collected a notebook with contact lists for a completely separate investigation into corruption charges for the doctor's close friend. A day later, an agent tried to get a warrant to justify the seizure of the notebook. Both of the men who are affected by the search are now seeking a dismissal of charges based on the alleged illegal search.

Too often, people make the mistake of thinking that people who have been accused of breaking the law don't have the same rights and protections as everyone else. There can be a bias against alleged criminals that makes members of the public, law enforcement agents and other parties think they can do whatever it takes to secure a conviction.

However, it is crucial to remember that people are innocent until proven guilty and as such have the same protections against unlawful searches as anyone else.

If you believe you are facing charges that stem from or involve evidence collected during an illegal search, you need to understand your rights and how you can defend yourself. Working with an attorney in these situations can be crucial in protecting your freedom and your rights.

Source: Miami Herald, "South Florida doctor in Sen. Menendez case accuses feds of 'illegal search'," Jay Weaver, July 22, 2015

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