When the Police Violate Your Rights, Evidence Can Often Be Suppressed
If you have been arrested or accused of a crime after the police engaged in an unlawful search of you, your home, your vehicle, or your belongings, it may be possible to get the evidence against you thrown out of court. In many instances, the suppression of evidence can result in a criminal charge being dropped in its entirety, as the prosecution lacks evidence critical to the case against you.
The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 7 of the Connecticut Constitution protect individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. Unfortunately, overly zealous law enforcement officers, intent on finding evidence and getting arrests, sometimes violate these rights.
The Exclusionary Rule
Fortunately for the accused, when the police violate your rights, there are steps you can take to ensure that you are not unfairly convicted of a crime. The “exclusionary rule” is how courts enforce the Constitution’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. If a defendant can show that the police obtained evidence through an unreasonable search and seizure, it can be “excluded” or “suppressed,” meaning that it cannot be used in court against you. Some examples of the kinds of evidence that can be excluded from evidence include:
- The results of a breathalyzer test or other chemical testing
- Drugs and drug paraphernalia
- Documents, emails, texts, tweets or other electronic communications
- Statements made while in police custody
At Duffy Law, our attorneys regularly file motions to suppress evidence in criminal cases and aggressively advocate for our clients’ rights. To schedule a case evaluation with a member of our legal team, contact us online or call our office today at 203-946-2000.
As a General Rule, Police Need a Search Warrant to Search Your Home, Car, or Person
So when is a search “unreasonable?” Under 4th Amendment case law, any warrantless search is presumed unreasonable. Under normal circumstances, law enforcement officers are supposed to obtain a search warrant from a judge before searching a person’s property, including their home, vehicle, or belongings. In order to issue a search warrant, the police present evidence in the form of an affidavit to a judge. The affidavit is an officer’s sworn statement of the evidence he or she has discovered so far in the investigation. The affidavit is then given to a judge who must then determine whether probable cause exists to issue the warrant. Probable cause means that there is a good reason to believe that 1) a crime has been committed, and 2) that evidence of that crime will be found in the search.
Importantly, search warrants can be challenged after the search is completed. For example, if the police were to include information in the warrant that is both false and helped form the basis on which the warrant was issued in the first place, a skilled criminal defense attorney can move the court to have that evidence suppressed. For this reason, it is important for people who are facing criminal charges to retain an attorney who will review all aspects of the case and challenge any deficiencies in the state’s case against them. Failure to do so could result in the prosecution using illegally obtained evidence against you, resulting in an otherwise avoidable conviction.
Not Surprisingly, Exceptions Exist
There are several exceptions to the requirement that the police have a warrant before they search an individual’s property or person. These exceptions result from decades of case law involving judges examining particular circumstances and determining how the 4th Amendment should apply. As a result, different rules govern when the police may search your home, your car—or even collect blood to perform chemical testing. For example, during traffic stops, if a police officer believes he or she has probable cause to search the vehicle, he or she may do so. This is because courts have determined that vehicles are easily moved and important evidence may be lost if an officer is required to get a warrant after stopping a vehicle. An officer may also conduct a “protective sweep” of areas within a suspect’s reach where weapons may be hidden, to ensure the officer’s safety. In addition, in cases where the loss or destruction of evidence is imminent, police may conduct a search without a warrant and seize any evidence discovered. Also, if an officer is in an area lawfully and observes evidence “in plain sight,” the officer can seize that evidence. These are just a few examples of exceptions to the warrant requirement, and determining whether they apply in a given case requires a thorough legal analysis of all the facts and circumstances.
Just as warrants can be challenged, a defense attorney may also challenge whether the circumstances justified the actions of police officers. Questions regarding whether a particular situation fits within an exception to the warrant requirement are often highly technical, and the representation of an experienced criminal defense lawyer can often have a significant impact on the way a judge ultimately rules. Consequently, anyone arrested after a warrantless search should be certain to have an attorney carefully review the facts surrounding the incident and determine the best defense strategy.
Do Not Delay in Retaining an Attorney
Many people who have been accused of a crime after a search feel like there is little they can do to avoid a conviction. It is important to realize that the early intervention of an attorney can have a significant impact on the way your case is ultimately resolved. The sooner a lawyer gets involved, the sooner he or she can start analyzing the circumstances around your arrest for any violations of your rights. In addition, you have the right to be represented by counsel during any questioning the police or prosecutors may conduct. In these scenarios, the representation of a lawyer can ensure your rights are protected and that police do not coerce or pressure you into making statements that could negatively impact your case.
Call Duffy Law Today to Speak With a Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you’ve been accused of a crime after the police conducted a search of your home, vehicle, or person and found contraband, you should speak to an attorney as soon as you can. The experienced lawyers at Duffy Law will take the time to fully evaluate the circumstances of your arrest and determine whether your rights were violated. If police violated your rights, we will do everything we can to get the evidence gathered against you suppressed, which can significantly weaken the prosecutor’s case and may even result in your case being completely dismissed. To schedule a case evaluation with a criminal defense attorney in Connecticut, call our office today at 203-946-2000 or send us an email using our online contact form.