Howson Law Office

Both the Federal and State Constitutions provide citizens with protection against unreasonable searches and seizures and other invasions of our individual privacy.  The Washington Constitution is actually more protective of your individual rights than is the United States Constitution.  These protections are part of those precious “freedoms” we enjoy touting to the rest of the world.

Almost every criminal case involves issues relating to search and seizure.  Every stop of a citizen whereby the person reasonably believes that he is not free to leave, is a seizure and must be done in a constitutionally lawful manner.  Every stop of a vehicle is a seizure.  Every arrest is a seizure. Every attempt to find evidence is a search.

Obviously we are not truly a free people if we “waive” or give up our freedoms any time a law enforcement officer asks us to do so. Remember please, that the freedoms listed in the constitution are freedoms from actions taken against us, by our own government, and the interests of the executive branch of government (police) most often involve obtaining a conviction, NOT protecting your rights.


When a law enforcement officer asks you to consent to a search, he is asking you to give up one of your freedoms as a citizen. These are the same freedoms that we are talking about when we say our troops are fighting and dying for our freedom.  When people are fighting and dying to protect these rights for you, why would you want to simply give them up as though they do not matter?

If you do not consent to a search, ( Q.“May I look in the trunk of your car?” – A. “No”) the officer may still be able to conduct the search, but is legally required to obtain a warrant first. To do that, the officer must establish a valid legal basis for doing so before a judge. Even if the warrant is obtained, the citizen may still contest the legal basis for issuing the warrant and may yet cause any evidence found to be unavailable for trial. 

On the other hand, If a person consents to the search, a valid search is at that moment established, and anything

Search and Seizure

found may be used against the person at trial even if the item found does not actually belong to the person or was not placed there by him.  Officer’s often say to people that if they don’t consent, the officer will simply get a warrant. However, that may not be the case, and the officer may not be able to secure a warrant. A consenting person will never know that. In this regard, you should be aware that officers are fully permitted to lie to you (the “suspect”) and in fact it is often considered “good police work” to do so. In other words, just because an officer says that if you don’t consent he will simply get a warrant does NOT mean it is true. If true, it does NOT mean the warrant will be valid. If he wants to search, make him do it legally.


At Howson Law Office we do everything within our power to protect your individual rights. Every search and every seizure will be examined in minute detail.  Our job is to uphold our constitutional freedoms and to require law enforcement to obey our constitutional law, just as they insist on other citizens obeying our statutory laws.

DISCLAIMER: This site contains general information only. It is not intended to provide legal advice, nor does it substitute for the professional judgment of the Howson Law Office attorneys concerning the facts and laws that apply in your individual case. For legal advice, please call Howson Law Office at 360.336.8722.
HLO 2010

Howson Law Office - 415 Pine Street - Mount Vernon, WA, 98273 / Email / Phone 360.336.8722 / Fax 360.336.0987
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