Columbia Illegal Search and Seizure Attorney

If you or your property has been wrongfully searched, you have important legal rights. Talk to an illegal search and seizure attorney in Columbia, SC at Shealey Law Firm today about your case. We are lawyers who fight for you when your civil rights are violated.

Illegal Search and Seizure Lawyers Serving Columbia

The United States Constitution and the state of South Carolina give you an important right – the right to be left alone. For the most part, law enforcement must leave you to go about your business. They can only interfere when they have a reasonable belief that illegal activity may have occurred.

If law enforcement searches your person, your vehicle or your property without lawful grounds to do so, you may have legal remedies. We are search and seizure attorneys in Columbia, SC. Let our team evaluate what has happened to you and explore the appropriate remedies.

Understanding Unlawful Search and Seizure in South Carolina

In Columbia and throughout South Carolina, search and seizure protections come from two places: the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the South Carolina Constitution, Article I, Section 10. The two laws are similar, stating that a person has the right to be secure in their person, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. South Carolina adds a right of privacy that may not be invaded.

A case against the federal government is called a Bivens action. It’s named after the court case stating that citizens can bring a federal case when their right to search and seizure is violated, Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).

If the case is against a state official, it is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights case.

The federal and state constitutions give the person the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, and the Bivens case and § 1983 give the victim the enforcement mechanism needed to bring a claim against those responsible.

Legal grounds for an unlawful search and seizure action

  • Generally, people have the right to be free from unlawful search and seizure.
  • The police need a warrant to conduct a search unless an exception applies.
  • Even if the police have a warrant, if the warrant isn’t reasonable and lawful, the search is still illegal. An officer may not rely on information that they know is false.
  • You don’t have to give law enforcement consent to search if they ask for it. Also, you can give them limited consent. (State v. Forrester, holding up a pocketbook for the officer to look inside does not give the officer the right to search the entire pocketbook.)
  • Exceptions to the warrant requirement include consent, plain view of the items, incident to a lawful arrest or exigent circumstances like immediate danger or attempts to destroy evidence.

Your legal rights are important. If you have concerns about how law enforcement acted towards you or a family member, we invite you to contact Shealey Law Firm to talk to a search and seizure attorney in Columbia, SC.

Remedies for Illegal Search and Seizure in South Carolina

If you are the victim of an unlawful search and seizure in South Carolina, there are a number of remedies that may be appropriate for you:

Suppression of the evidence in a criminal proceeding

If you are charged with a crime, the state may want to admit evidence they got in violation of your constitutional rights. The court may throw out the evidence – this is called suppression.

The phrase you might hear associated with a motion for suppression is fruit of the poisonous tree. In other words, bad actors should not be rewarded for their good behavior by being able to use evidence they got illegally. To have evidence suppressed, you must motion the court to ask for it.

A legal claim for damages

Financial compensation may be an appropriate remedy for a search and seizure violation. Compensation may include payment for medical treatment and rehabilitation for injuries, property damage, loss of business revenue and the mental and emotional anguish of what has occurred.

Nominal, compensatory or punitive damages may be available depending on the nature of the acts and offensiveness of the conduct.

Injunction or declaratory relief

An injunction is a court order that tells someone to do something or refrain from doing something. The court may declare that the defendant violated your rights. The court may issue an order that the defendant behave differently towards you and others in the future.

Search and Seizure FAQs

If the police stop me while driving in South Carolina, do I have to show them my license?

South Carolina Code § 56-1-190 says that a person operating a motor vehicle must have their license in their immediate possession and display it if a police officer demands it. You must display your license if the police ask for it.

Can the police demand to look at your cell phone in South Carolina?

The U.S. Supreme Court case Riley v. California stated digital information from an individual who has been arrested may not be seized without a warrant. The court stated that the purpose of a warrantless search following arrest is officer safety and preserving evidence. Since neither of these things are at risk by taking the time to get a warrant, a warrant is required.

What does it mean that a warrant needs to be particular?

A warrant must state with particularity what is to be searched. It must be specific enough that the officer does not have discretion in how to carry out the warrant.

Speak to a Lawyer Now

Search and seizure laws protect the public. If your rights have been violated, you can talk to an illegal search and seizure attorney in Columbia at Shealey Law Firm. We are lawyers that you can trust.

We are proud to handle difficult cases and represent people in difficult situations. It’s our goal to hold law enforcement accountable and hold them up to the standards in the United States and South Carolina constitutions. If your rights have been violated, we may help you pursue remedies available to you, both with any pending criminal case and the civil rights you possess.

Contact us today.


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