The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from “unlawful search and seizure.” This means that law enforcement must have a warrant or probable cause to legally search your person or property. This also means that when conducting a search, if law enforcement finds evidence of a different crime, then the police can’t obtain that evidence legally without an additional warrant.
This amendment is so important for drug cases because it’s common to find drugs as part of a search for other evidence or through an illegal search and seizure. Anyone accused of a drug related crime has the potential of having the evidence thrown out because of Fourth Amendment violations.
How Do I Know If It Was an Illegal Search and Seizure?
The only way to know if police obtained evidence illegally is to have a criminal defense attorney carefully review all of the information surrounding the arrest and the search. Your attorney will be able to tell if the police conducted the search within the confines of the law. If it was not, your attorney will file a pre-trial motion to have the evidence removed from the case.
If the court approves, dismissal of the case is possible because there is no additional evidence available against the accused.
What is a Legal Search and Seizure?
Under the Constitution, law enforcement officials that believe a crime was committed must obtain a warrant to search and seize evidence. This is known as probable cause. Law enforcement officials also have coined the term of reasonable suspicion. This suspicion grants them the right to seize evidence that is open and in plain view when they have stopped you for an alleged crime.
An example would be if police stopped you for suspicion of drunk driving. The police officers have reasonable suspicion, or probable cause, to look in the windows of the vehicle to see if there are any open or empty alcohol bottles. However, this does not give them the right to search the trunk of the car or the handbag of an individual in the vehicle.
Any type of evidence obtained from a search that was not legal, even if it is proof of other criminal activity such as drugs in the handbag they searched, is not admissible in court.
The Fourth Amendment is Complex
The Fourth Amendment can be complicated. There are many things that affect this protection from unlawful search and seizures, including the perceived privacy of the individual whose rights are in question. You should note that a person has more protections in their own home than they do in a public place and that any and all protections always have conditions.
If you are facing drug charges, it is important to seek quality legal representation so that your attorney can review all the facts of the arrest and the collection of evidence. Your attorney will make sure that the police have not violated your rights. If they have, your attorney will take the necessary steps to have the evidence removed and the case dismissed.