As a criminal defense attorney, one of the most powerful tools in my arsenal is the ability to challenge search and seizure violations by law enforcement. These violations, when successfully contested, can be the difference between a conviction and a dismissal of charges. This morning, I was just reviewing a police report where the cops searched the wrong apartment number. They found drugs and guns in my client’s house. Will the evidence get thrown out because this was an invalid search? I’m going to argue yes…but it will all come down to additional police reports and the motion hearing in a few months. In the meantime, this got me thinking how I protect my client’s rights when it comes to these illegal search and seizures. How do I do it? It all starts knowing what law to refer to…the 14th amendment.
1. Understanding the Fourth Amendment: The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. It’s crucial your criminal defense attorney recognizes when this amendment has been violated, as it can lead to the suppression of evidence in your case.
2. Scrutinizing Probable Cause: Law enforcement officers must have a valid reason, or probable cause, to conduct a search or seizure. When reviewing over my client’s cases, our team closely examines the police report, warrants and bodycam to examine whether the police had a legitimate basis for their actions. If not, any evidence obtained during the illegal search may be deemed inadmissible in court. This is called the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. I’ll save that for another blog.
3. Examining Warrants: Searches and seizures often require a search warrant issued by a judge. We scrutinize the warrant’s validity, looking for inaccuracies, omissions, or errors that might render it invalid. If the warrant is flawed, any evidence seized under it may be suppressed.
4. Assessing Consent: In some cases, individuals may consent to searches or seizures under pressure or without fully understanding their rights. We investigate whether consent was freely and voluntarily given. If not, we can argue that the evidence should be excluded.
5. The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine: This legal principle holds that if evidence is obtained unlawfully, any subsequent evidence derived from it is tainted and should be suppressed. We explore whether any evidence, such as confessions or additional searches, stems from an initial illegal action by law enforcement. I will explore this in greater detail in another blog.
6. Filing Motions to Suppress: Armed with evidence of search and seizure violations, we file motions to suppress this evidence in court. These motions request the judge to exclude the unlawfully obtained evidence from the trial, weakening the prosecution’s case.
7. Negotiating for Reduced Charges: When search and seizure violations are evident, we leverage this knowledge in negotiations with the prosecution. Often, the threat of evidence suppression can lead to favorable plea bargains for our clients.
Challenging search and seizure violations is a fundamental part of ensuring justice in the criminal justice system. It safeguards the rights of the accused and upholds the principles of due process. If you find yourself facing criminal charges, don’t hesitate to call our office at 504-434-7000 for a free consultation. You deserve an experienced attorney who will challenge that invalid search and seizure arrest.