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Georgia Search and Seizure Laws: What You Need to Know

The Waltman Firm is your go-to resource for navigating Georgia’s complex search and seizure laws. Trust our experienced legal team to fight for your rights.

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Search and Seizure Explained

A search is an act done by a law enforcement officer to find evidence of a crime or locate an individual suspected to have committed a crime. In contrast, a seizure is an act done by a law enforcement officer when they take hold of the evidence obtained from the search.

Under US constitutional law and Georgia’s search and seizure laws, you are entitled to be free from unreasonable search and seizure by law enforcement. Therefore, if you are accused of a crime, the police need to obtain a search warrant allowing them to search your home, car, and other belongings to find evidence that you committed that crime. However, there are some exceptions to this right under certain circumstances. These exceptions are known as exigent circumstances.


The Fourth Amendment: A Shield Against Unlawful Searches

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution is the cornerstone of search and seizure law, providing a vital protection against the government’s invasion of privacy. It ensures that individuals’ rights to security in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, are safeguarded, unless a warrant is issued based on probable cause. This amendment sets the stage for understanding Georgia’s specific search and seizure laws, emphasizing the importance of legality and reasonableness in such governmental actions. It’s a critical area of knowledge for law professionals aiming to protect their clients’ constitutional rights effectively.

Exceptions to the Fourth Amendment: Exigent Circumstances

A deviation from the requirement of a warrant is permissible under the following circumstances:

  • Entry (or other relevant prompt action) was necessary to prevent physical harm to the officers or other persons,
  • If a warrant was pursued, the suspects would destroy relevant evidence, or the suspects would escape.
  • Getting a warrant would frustrate legitimate law enforcement efforts.

Warrantless Searches and Seizures

In certain circumstances, police can deviate from the warrant requirement and conduct searches without them. These circumstances include:

  • Consent – If the police ask you for your consent to search your property, you may accept or deny their request. However, the police are permitted to search without probable cause if you freely and voluntarily consent to a search. Anything illegal found can be used as evidence against you.
  • In an Emergency – The police may search if they reasonably believe they need to immediately protect life or property.
  • Plain View – A warrant is not required if the illegal items are in plain view and easily seen. This includes items in your car, yard, an open field, or any property you own.
  •  Stop & Frisk – Police officers may stop you and search you for concealed weapons if they suspect a crime has taken place or is about to take place. If they find contraband during a pat-down, they can seize it. It is called a “plain feel” and is similar to the concept of “plain view.”
  • Incident to Arrest – As part of a lawful arrest, police may search you and the area within your immediate control.
  • DUI Checkpoints – At traffic and DUI checkpoints, police may stop traffic, check drivers’ licenses, insurance, and registration, as well as check sobriety. If you are arrested after failing field sobriety tests, your vehicle is likely to be impounded, and its contents searched.

Illegal Search and Seizure Under Georgia Law

An illegal search and seizure is a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. In an illegal search and seizure, a police officer searches and seizes your property without a search warrant or reasonable suspicion of a crime, or by going beyond what is permitted.

In such a case, your lawyer can argue that this was an illegal search and move to get your charges dismissed. In court proceedings against you, illegally obtained evidence (also known as fruits of the poisonous tree) is not admissible. You can also file a suit against law enforcement for civil rights violations.

If you were arrested without probable cause, contact an experienced Georgia post-conviction attorney immediately so they can review your case and advise you on your best options moving forward.

Navigating Arrests Under Georgia’s Search and Seizure Laws

Individuals arrested in Georgia have a right to know the reason for their arrest and what evidence or information was used to make the arrest. If you’ve been arrested in Georgia, here are some things you should know:

  1. You have the right to remain silent. If you’re asked questions by an officer or another person investigating your case, don’t say anything unless your attorney is present.
  2. You have the right to an attorney. This includes the right to have an attorney present during questioning by law enforcement officials or other investigators working on your case. If someone wants you to talk about what happened without your lawyer being present, tell them “no, thank you” politely but firmly and ask for your lawyer instead.

Ideally, it would be best to never represent yourself in court or sign any documents related to your case without consulting an experienced criminal lawyer first.

Vehicle Search and Seizure Laws in Georgia

Georgia’s laws on forfeiture allow law enforcement officers to search and seize property associated with any illegal activity. Therefore, officers can search and seize property that was used to commit a crime or intended for use in criminal activity, including a car. If they have probable cause, they can proceed with the search and seizure of whatever evidence they find. For instance, if the police reasonably believe that drugs are being sold from your car, they can seize the car as evidence for their case.

Police may also seize evidence found on your person if they have probable cause to believe it is connected with criminal activity.

Search and Seizure Defense Lawyer in Georgia

Illegal searches and unlawful arrests happen often. Contact a reputable law firm immediately for legal representation if you have been arrested after a search and seizure. We will examine the circumstances surrounding the search, seizure, and subsequent arrest to ensure that it wasn’t illegal. Our job is to fight for your rights and ensure that justice is served. As your lawyer, we strive to ensure that your charges are dismissed, reduced, or dropped to the fullest extent possible and that the justice system works in your favor.

Contact The Waltman Firm today at 770.293.8502! We may be able to help you challenge the charges against you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Probation Officers Need Warrants Under Search and Seizure Laws in Georgia? 

Probation search and seizure law in Georgia is outlined in the Georgia Constitution. Under Georgia law, probation officers must have probable cause before searching your person or property. Further, probation officers can only use reasonable force when conducting searches.

If a probation officer suspects that you have violated any terms of your probation, they may arrest you without a warrant if:

  • You are not at home when requested for an interview or meeting.

  • You refuse to allow the officer into your home when asked.

  • The officer has reason to believe that allowing him into your home will lead to violence or escape by you or others present at that time.

Because Fighting for Justice with Passionate representation is our motto, consult with Criminal Attorney Marietta GA today!


Are “Stop and Identify” Laws Legal?

According to Georgia’s “stop and identify” statute, police can stop you and ask you to identify yourself if they have reasonable suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity. To identify yourself, will need to state your name and address. However, if you’re stopped while driving, you’ll need to show identification. Failure to identify yourself or show police your ID might result in criminal charges.