If you are currently facing drug related criminal charges in the State of Tennessee, there is a good chance that you are also facing serious penalties if convicted of those charges. Since the “War on Drugs” began back in the 1970s, states have consistently increased their penalties for a violation of their drug related offenses. Tennessee is no exception to this general rule. The best thing you can do for yourself and your future is to retain the services of an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. One defense strategy your La Vergne drug crime attorney might use, if applicable in your case, is to challenge a search on the grounds that the search was illegal.
How Can a Search Be Illegal?
Law enforcement officers are required to follow the law just like you are. In fact, they are held to a higher standard, in many cases, than the average citizen given their position of authority over civilians. One area in which they frequently cross the line, however, is when conducting a search. Sometimes they step over the line intentionally; however, more often the line is blurred and it is difficult for the average patrol officer to know when he/she has crossed it. As a citizen of the United States, however, you have a number of rights that are guaranteed to you in the U.S. Constitution. One of those rights is the right to be free from “unreasonable” searches and seizures as outlined 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.”
When Is a Search “Unreasonable?”
Whether a search was “unreasonable” or illegal depends on a number of factors, starting with the type of search conducted. The police can search your person, your vehicle, or your property. The accepted standards for each type of search are different. We start with the presumption that for a search to be legal it must be conducted after first obtaining a warrant based on probable cause that a crime has been committed and that evidence of the crime will be found at the place to be searched. Over the years, however, the warrant requirement has been watered down by the courts.
The most lenient search is a search of your person. A warrant is not required to conduct what is referred to as a “pat-down” search or a “Terry stop” (named after the case that set the precedent) which allows the police to briefly stop you if they have a “reasonable suspicion” of your involvement in criminal activity. They are then allowed to conduct a “pat down” of the outside of your clothing to check for weapons or contraband. If the police feel or see what they immediately believe to be a weapon or contraband, they may seize it.
Your vehicle is also free from the warrant requirement in most cases because you have very little expectation of privacy in a vehicle being operated on a public roadway. Therefore, a warrant is not needed if the officer has probable cause to believe there is evidence of crime in the vehicle. Your vehicle may also be searched without a warrant if you have been arrested using what is referred to as an “inventory search.” Officially, an inventory search is intended to protect the vehicle’s owner by documenting what was in the vehicle when the police seized it.
Finally, the last type of search is a search of your home which remains well protected. Your home cannot be searched without a warrant except under very limited circumstances. One of the most commonly used exceptions to the warrant requirement is consent. If you consent to a search of your home, no warrant is required so do not ever consent to a search of your home unless you speak to an attorney first.
If you have been charged with a drug related criminal offense in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced La Vergne drug crime attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.