FBI Agents Search the Home of Missing Delray Beach, FL Woman
Authorities continued their investigation into the disappearance of a Delray Beach, Florida woman who was reported missing after an accident at sea. The Palm Beach Post reported on June 16, 2017 that FBI investigators conducted a full day, court-authorized search of the home that Isabella Hellmann shared with her husband, Lewis Bennett. The search is an indication that officials don’t believe Bennett’s story that Hellmann disappeared after the couple’s 37-foot catamaran struck an object just west of the Bahamas on May 15. He stated that he was below deck when the boat started taking on water, that that Hellman was gone when he rushed topside. Bennett was rescued about three hours by US Coast Guard helicopter.
Whether or not the search reveals additional details remains to be seen, but this action by authorities raises legal implications: Certain searches are prohibited by the US Constitution and only a knowledgeable Florida criminal defense attorney can protect your civil rights.
Fourth Amendment Protections
The US Constitution protects suspects from unreasonable searches of their person and property, and that any evidence seized pursuant to an improper search must be excluded at trial. There are a few circumstances where a search is legal, however.
- Valid Warrant: An officer can search a person or property if a valid warrant is issued by authorities, either as a search warrant or arrest warrant. It’s necessary that there be probable cause to issue the warrant and it must be specific in terms of the location to be search and items that can be properly seized.
- Probable Cause: If officers believe that there is probable cause that a person or property is somehow involved in a crime, they may conduct a search of that individual or place without a warrant.
Probable cause must be based upon a reasonable belief that the individual did just commit a crime, is in the process of doing so, or is about to commit an offense. When the search is of property, the same is true: There was, is, or will be criminal activity – or that there is evidence of a crime at that property.
There must be specific facts to support the belief in order for it to be considered “reasonable” by Constitutional standards. A suspicion, gut feeling, or hunch isn’t sufficient and could lead to exclusion of the evidence.
A Qualified Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Challenge Illegal Searches
Regardless of what types of incriminating evidence authorities may find in your home or on your person, this information is not admissible in court if it was obtained pursuant to an illegal search. However, defending your civil rights under the US Constitution requires a highly complex strategy – no matter what type of criminal charges you’re facing. A knowledgeable attorney with extensive experience in criminal defense cases can challenge the circumstances of a search. Fort Lauderdale lawyer Kevin J. Kulik will press to have charges dismissed if evidence is illegally gathered by law enforcement and will protect your rights throughout the criminal process. Please contact our office today for a confidential consultation.