Have you ever heard about a crime in your neighborhood and wondered how on earth the person walked free when everyone knows they did it? It may be because the police obtained their evidence illegally.
That might sound like a stupid rule when used to save a known criminal from prison, but it can be convenient if you face charges yourself. It also makes going about your everyday life less stressful. If the police could randomly enter people’s houses or stop and search who they felt like, the country would be an unpleasant place to live.
The Fourth Amendment protects your rights
The police can only conduct searches for specific reasons. If they do not comply with those reasons, you can ask a judge to declare the evidence they obtained during that search inadmissible in court. Here are the circumstances in which law officers can obtain evidence:
- If they have a search warrant: Search warrants are specific to a property, so check the address on the warrant is correct and that a judge has signed it.
- If they have an arrest warrant: They can search you if the arrest warrant has your correct name on it.
- If you give them permission: When the police ask if you mind them taking a look, you give them permission to search and take evidence they find if you tell them to go ahead.
- If the objects are in plain view: The police can seize evidence they can see — so a blood-covered samurai sword sticking out of your backpack or bags of white powder on your dashboard would all be fair game.
- If they have a probable cause: Having a hunch may work in cop shows, but in real life, the police need to justify why they had probable cause to think you were engaged in criminal activity.
If facing criminal allegations, it is crucial to explore all defense options available. If you can get the evidence dismissed, then it will be easier to overturn the charges.