One tactic law enforcement officers frequently use when investigating a crime is a search and seizure. As the name implies, this involves the police searching you, or your property, and seizing any contraband and/or evidence of a crime. Often, the evidence obtained as a result of a search and seizure becomes an important part of the State’s case. A search and seizure can be perfectly legal when conducted appropriately; however, illegal searches and seizures occur far more regularly than most people realize. If you are currently facing criminal charges, and a search and seizure was part of the investigation that led to your arrest, you may have concerns about the way the search and seizure was conducted. You may also be wondering if a criminal defense attorney can challenge a search and seizure. Only an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney can review the unique set of facts and circumstances in your case and tell you if the search and seizure in your specific case is ripe for a challenge; however, you may be interested to know more about challenging a search in general for now.
Your Right to Be Free from Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
In the United States, any suspected of, or accused of, a criminal offense has a number of rights that are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Most of those rights are found in the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, collectively referred to as the “Bill of Rights.” The Bill of Rights contains a number of powerful rights, including the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, found in the Fourth Amendment, which reads as follows:
“[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
What Does the 4th Amendment Mean?
Originally, the 4th Amendment meant that the government (a law enforcement officer today) must have a warrant, signed by a judge and based on probable cause, in order to conduct any type of search or your person, property, or things. The warrant requirement has been watered down over the years by the courts; however, the basic premise of the 4th Amendment remains strong. Certain types of searches can now be conducted without first obtaining a warrant, such as a “Terry stop,” named for the case that held the police could conduct a limited search of your person without a warrant; however, this warrantless search is limited in scope to a “pat down” of your outer clothing. A search of your vehicle may also not require a warrant; however, the police still need probable cause to search. Your home remains the most heavily protected when it comes to searches and seizures. Unless one of the few exceptions to the warrant requirements applies, the police must have a valid warrant before conducting a search of your home.
What Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Do If My Rights Were Violated?
Law enforcement officers are human, and they do make mistakes. Sometimes these are innocent mistakes and sometimes they intentionally cross the line. If you believe that a search and seizure in your case was conducted illegally, or exceeded the allowable scope of the search, you should consult with an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney right away. A criminal defense attorney can challenge the legality of the search in court. If the judge agrees that the search was conducted illegally, or that the officers exceeded the scope of a legal search, any evidence seized as a result of the search will be declared inadmissible at trial. In many cases, this leads to a dismissal of all charges against a defendant because the evidence found during the search was crucial to the State’s case.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Tennessee, and you believe the police violated your 4th Amendment rights by conducting an illegal search and seizure, it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.