If law enforcement suspects your company or individuals therein to be complicit in a crime, the authorized agents endeavor to collect relevant evidence. While your firm should comply when the authorities make appropriate demands, your company has a clear interest in protecting confidential information.
How can your business avoid sacrificing trade secrets and private data to public consumption if under investigation?
Fourth Amendment protections
The Founding Fathers installed your right to unreasonable search and seizure early in the Constitution with the Fourth Amendment. The protection is a guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures. Such protections also apply to business entities.
You must permit a search by authorities when they present a warrant signed by a judge. However, evidence obtained from an unlawful search is inadmissible at trial.
Searches that do not require a warrant
Police have the right to search you or your firm without a warrant in specific circumstances, including but not limited to:
- an emergency that requires a search to find a fleeing suspect or to prevent severe property damage or physical harm;
- searches at international borders;
- when police have probable cause to search a vehicle;
- a pat-down to check a suspect for weapons;
- discovery of items in plain view during a lawful search;
- a protective sweep of an area after a lawful arrest to find dangers; or
- your consent to a search.
If an officer oversteps boundaries by conducting an illegal search, you can ask the court to exclude any resulting evidence. The exclusion requires a motion to suppress, which your attorney can handle properly.
As law enforcement attempts to bring violators to justice, mistakes will happen. Understanding and respectfully defending your rights can safeguard you and your company during due process.