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How to Understand Search & Seizure Law

One of the best things about living in the United States are the rights and freedoms given to all. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights takes the time to lay out exactly what rights all American citizens have under the law. Most importantly, those that have been accused of a crime are not exempt from legal protections. There are a few rights that specifically apply to those being questioned by law enforcement and how police are under legal supposed to act when seeking information or evidence.

How does the Fourth Amendment protect me?

One of the most important rights afforded to the American public is the freedom from unreasonable search and seizure by members of state and federal law enforcement under the Fourth Amendment right. This works to protect both the person and their personal possessions that can be used against them in a court of law.

In most instances, law enforcement is unable to search and seize an individual or their property unless:

  • They have obtained a valid search warrant:
  • They have received a valid arrest warrant; or
  • Law enforcement has a level of probable cause that someone has committed a crime

This means that unless any of these three factors are present, if law enforcement seizes a physical person or their property, it is a violation of the law. In addition, it is required that the person has a reasonable degree of privacy in order for the search to be considered unreasonable. For example, if a car is stopped for driving over the speed limit and the police officer notices a weapon on the front seat, searching that car would not be considered unreasonable.

There are ramifications if law enforcement is found to be in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Any evidence that is found as a result of an unreasonable search is inadmissible in court, and any evidence that is discovered as a result of the initially discovered evidence is inadmissible as well. This can severely affect the case a prosecution has built against the defendant.

While evidence taken as a result of an unreasonable search and seizure is inadmissible in court, the case may continue if there is other, legally obtained evidence that can be used to show guilt. In addition, a judge can take the inadmissible evidence into consideration when deciding upon a conviction.

If you think your Fourth Amendment rights may have been violated in your case, contact a criminal defense attorney at Martin & Kent, LLC today.

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