The United States Constitution guarantees you certain rights – and many of them are outlined in amendments. One of the most important amendments, at least in the field of criminal law, is the fourth one. The 4th Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. But what does that mean, and how can it help you if you’re accused of a crime?
What Are Your 4th Amendment Rights?
Amendment IV to the U.S. Constitution says, “The 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.”
Here’s what that means to people charged in criminal cases: Any evidence that investigators obtained while violating the defendant’s 4th Amendment rights must be excluded from criminal proceedings.
If police unlawfully searched and found something that they later used to charge you with a crime, or that prosecutors used to convict you, the evidence that they found while unlawfully searching can’t be used against you in court. There are a few exceptions to the rule, but many attorneys are able to successfully argue that the evidence was obtained unlawfully.
What’s an Example of a Violation of 4th Amendment Rights?
There are several examples of violations of 4th Amendment rights – here’s just one:
Bianca is pulled over by for speeding. The police don’t have any reason to believe that she’s been drinking or using drugs, but they tell her to step out of her car and proceed to search it without her consent. They find a prescription drug bottle in the trunk that doesn’t belong to her and charge her with drug possession.
The police didn’t have probable cause to believe Bianca was committing a crime that had to do with drugs. They didn’t have a warrant, and Bianca didn’t consent to the search. There’s a chance that, if it comes to it, Bianca’s attorney will argue that the police violated her 4th Amendment rights in obtaining the evidence.
Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Your 4th Amendment Rights?
If you believe your 4th Amendment rights were violated, we may be able to help you. Call our office at 414-383-6700 today to schedule your free consultation with an experienced professional. We can give you the answers you’re looking for.