Search issues in criminal cases can be complicated

Last month, a 42-year-old Seffner man was arrested and charged with tax and fraud charge after police executed a search warrant on his home. The man, who had been under investigation for a month prior to his arrest, is accused of possessing guns, drugs and various items suggesting he had been involved in tax fraud.

Among the pieces of evidence found were cocaine, methamphetamine, and other drugs, two handguns and ammunition, W-2 forms, various Florida driver's licenses, debit and social security cards, a list of 75 names, and what prosecutors claim were instructions for committing tax fraud. As if this evidence weren't bad enough, the man has an extensive criminal record including 15 felonies, and his most recent release was in 2010.

One important thing to remember about criminal defense is that, no matter what kind of evidence prosecutors have against a defendant, there are protections available when officers failed to conduct an investigation properly. In this case, this doesn't seem to be an issue, based on what sources are saying. In some criminal cases, though, officers obtain incriminating evidence by conducting a search without first obtaining a warrant, or by executing a warrant incorrectly.

When this happens, the criminal defendant may be able to have the evidence tainted by the improper search excluding from evidence at trial. This is known as the exclusionary rule. The rules pertaining to the exclusionary rule can be confusing, however, because the protection may not be available in cases where officers thought they were acting properly. Determining where this exception is applicable requires an examination of the officers' mental state at the time of the search.

Needless to say, it is important to work with an experienced attorney when pursuing cases with search issues, and any criminal case for that matter.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, "Search warrant yields arrest of man on drug, tax fraud charges," Dan Sullivan, June 6, 2014.

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