Private Searches vs. Government Searches – Who does the Constitution protect and what makes them different
Our criminal lawyers defend individuals charged with crimes and offenses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Many of these cases start with a search, which uncovers often incriminating evidence, that is used at various stages in the criminal justice process.
Government Searches vs. Private Searches
There is a difference, however, between searches done by a government official, such as a police officer or other law enforcement and private searches. All persons have a 4th Amendment right against illegal search and seizure and both Pennsylvania and New Jersey’s constitution provide further protections. The purpose of the 4th Amendment and the corresponding state sections regarding illegal search and seizure is to keep unwarranted police out of citizens homes and personal property, such as vehicles.
The 4th Amendment, however, only protects individuals against government searches and not private searches. For example, where a private citizen (such as a private investigator) uncovers or retrieves incriminating evidence against someone, that private citizen can turn over that evidence to police without any type of illegal search and seizure issue. It is important to keep in mind however that searches done by private citizens at the direction of police or working with police, are possibly subject to 4th Amendment protections. These situations would include private guards and security police who are not generally cited under the 4th Amendment as government actors.
What should your criminal defense lawyer do if you’re charged with crime involving illegal guns and firearms
If you’re charged with a crime involving an illegal gun, narcotic or drug, following a search in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, it is important that your criminal defense lawyer evaluate the following:
- Who conducted the search?
- Did the search involve a search warrant?
- The time of the search.
- What was uncovered?
- How was it discovered or uncovered.
There is a presumption in Pennsylvania and New Jersey that all searches require a search warrant, but there are various exceptions, which make warrantless searches permissible. Keep in mind however that warrantless searches of vehicles in Pennsylvania are considered illegal, but are generally accepted in New Jersey. New Jersey, unlike Pennsylvania, follows the automobile exception to the search warrant requirement. Pennsylvania, however, following the case of Commonwealth v. Alexander in 2020, makes warrantless searches of vehicles illegal.
Gun Laws – Pennsylvania and New Jersey are different!
In New Jersey, unlike Pennsylvania, a person can’t purchase any gun or firearm without first requiring a purchaser identification card. In addition to purchase a handgun in New Jersey, one must first obtain a permit to purchase this type of weapon. There is also a limit in New Jersey with regard to the number of hand guns that can be purchased (one every 90 days). Pennsylvania, does not require any type of purchase, identification card and unlike New Jersey. Pennsylvania, unlike the Garden State, doesn’t ban any type of assault rifle for purchase.
What to know about Pennsylvania gun laws.
• There is no waiting period.
• There is no license or permit to purchase required.
• There is no training required before or after purchasing a firearm.
• The minimum age to purchase a long gun (rifle, shot gun, semi-automatic rifle) is 18. The minimum age to purchase a handgun is 21.
• There is no limit on the number of guns one may purchase at a time.
• There are virtually no regulations on the sale of ammunition.
• Private sales (by unlicensed dealers) of long guns (rifles, shot guns, semi-automatic rifles) do not require background checks
What to know about New Jersey gun laws
- New Jersey, requires the purchaser identification card prior to any purchase.
- New Jersey has a long list of rifles and handguns which are banned within the Garden State. These include any semi-automatic rifles which have the following characteristics:
- Flask suppressor or thread barrel
- Folding or telescoping stock
- Pistol grip, which protrudes beneath the action of the weapon
Contact Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in PA & NJ
Please click here to contact our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers. We offer free case reviews and serve the following areas in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Atlantic City, Camden, Cherry Hill, Chester, Conshohocken, Doylestown, Media, Norristown, Philadelphia, Pottstown, Salem, Upper Darby, Upper Merion, Upper Providence, Vineland & Woodbury areas.