Criminal Law

Search and Seizure

Search is a term used in legal issues and means that a law enforcement representative examines a person’s private property in order to acquire evidence that can be used to prove a case in a court of law. On the other hand, seizure includes obtaining a person’ property to be used as evidence in court. In addition, seizure may include placing a person under arrest for a crime that he has committed (Tyler, 2007). The two words are usually coined together (search and seizure) because the process of searching a person’s property always culminates in seizing of evidence which is usually personal property. Search and seizure usually takes place somewhere that is considered private by a person, for example, home, business, purse, hotel room, and vehicle. This is considered private property because the law gives citizens the right to purchase and own property.

Search and seizure is an intricate legal issue since, a law enforcement officer cannot search or seize personal property without the required legal documents. In the United States, the law gives citizens the right to privacy and it is illegal for any person to intrude unreasonably on a person’s personal property. The Fourth Amendment to the constitution protects citizens from law enforcement agents who may want to search their personal property. However, when an officer has a valid search warrant, he or she is permitted by the law to search and seize personal property. The search warrant must have been written by a stately recognized magistrate from a court of law (Tyler, 2007). However, a law enforcement agent may conduct a search without a warrant if he or she has a probable cause to do so. This means that the officer has enough reason to believe that house or person being searched or seized and has the evidence that the he is looking for. Moreover, an officer can legally search a person’s private property, if the person gives consent. The clause on probable cause applies to the arrest of persons.

Reading of Miranda Rights

            Miranda Rights are a clause that has to be administered to a person who has been arrested, by law enforcement agents before interrogating the person. Miranda rights inform the suspect of their rights and what they can or cannot do as stated in the constitution. It is a requirement by the law that police or any other law enforcement officer read the arrested person their rights. The rights that are read to a person in police custody include, “the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney and the right to be accorded a state attorney if he or she cannot afford one”, (Tyler, 2007). These rights ensure that the person in custody understands that whatever he says after the Miranda Rights have been read to him, can or will be used against them in court. This means that, evidence produced in court that contains statements said by the suspect before the rights were read, cannot be used against them. Such evidence would be discarded and would not be used in the case. However, these rights apply only to persons who have been arrested or taken into custody. Law enforcement agents can question other people without reading the rights.

Use of force by police

Police may be confronted by circumstances where they may need to use force to control the situations. However, the use of force should only come as a last resort after all other means have failed. This is because the law prohibits the use of force by law enforcement officers unless there is no other option. Police may use force in situations where it is reasonably clear and justified to use it. This means that such situations may require the personal judgment of police officers to see which means would work well. Police may use force in situations where self-defense is required (Rahtz, 2003). In addition, they may use force to prevent the occurrence of a crime or to protect people’s property. Police may also use force to put into custody a person who is resisting arrest. In summary, the law provides very strict options on situations when police can use force.


Rahtz, H. (2003). Understanding police use of force. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.

Tyler, T. R. (2007). Legitimacy and criminal justice: International perspectives. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.


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