Unreasonable Continued Seizure: Criminal Defense

A seizure occurs against a person when the government restrains the person. A seizure can also occur against a person’s property when there is some meaningful interference with an individual’s possessory interests in that property. Both the Missouri Constitution and Federal Constitution prohibit unreasonable seizures. See U.S. Const. amend. IV; Mo. Const.Art. I § 15. Generally, “seizures of personal property are unreasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment unless accomplished pursuant to a judicial warrant.” Illinois v. McArthur, 531 U.S. 326, 330 (2001). However, even a seizure which is reasonable at its inception may become unreasonable as a result of its duration. Segura v. United States, 468 U.S. 796, 812 (1984).
There is no bright line past which a continued seizure becomes unreasonable; instead, this Court must assess the reasonableness of the seizure by assessing the “nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests against the importance of the governmental interests alleged to justify the intrusion.” United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 703 (1983); see also McArthur, 531 U.S. at 331 (instructing courts to “balance the privacy-related and law enforcement-related concerns to determine if the intrusion was reasonable”). On the individual’s side of the balance, the critical question relates to the individual’s “possessory interests” in the seized property [emphasis added]. Segura, 468 U.S. at 806. Thus, the “brevity” of the seizure is important [emphasis added]. Place, 462 U.S. at 709. On the State’s side of the balance, this Court must consider “whether the police diligently pursue[d] their investigation [emphasis added].” Place, 462 U.S. at 709.
As any criminal defense attorney will state, criminal procedure is equally as important as the substantive elements of a given crime. Under firmly established case precedent, evidence obtained by the police in violation of criminal procedures rules, directly or indirectly, is often excluded as evidence from any trial/hearing, which, in turn, can sink or give life to a criminal prosecution. Evidence via an unreasonable seizure would, therefore, qualify for such an exclusion.

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