Search & Seizure
The United States was founded on personal liberties. When America’s Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution, they sought to protect the people from a villainous government. The Fourth Amendment allows us to live free from unreasonable, general searches performed by law enforcement officers and their agents. The United States Supreme Court has recognized the exclusionary rule as a potential remedy to defendants for evidence obtained by an unreasonable search or seizure.
Under the exclusionary rule, the prosecution will not be able to use that illegally seized evidence against you at trial. Further, if illegally seized evidence leads law enforcement to additional evidence, the additional evidence is also subject to exclusion. The additional evidence is said to be the “fruit of the poisonous tree.” Essentially, the law will not allow the prosecution to benefit from police misconduct. The Court has reiterated many times that society pays a heavy fine when the exclusionary rule is invoked; however the need to discourage law enforcement from acting in a tyrannical manner is paramount. Because the exclusionary rule was designed to punish and discourage police misconduct, when an officer acts in good faith, the evidence may sometimes be admissible at trial.
What is a Search?
For the purposes of the Fourth Amendment, a search is an intrusion into a legitimate expectation of privacy. In order an expectation of privacy to be deemed “legitimate,” it must satisfy both elements of a two-prong test. First, you must show that you made some overt act that is sufficient to you to protect your privacy interest. Second, the steps you took to protect your privacy interest must have been reasonable so that society as a whole would be willing to recognize it. When you are in your home, your right to privacy is at its highest point. As you venture out into the public, even within your car, your privacy rights are lowered. What you openly expose to the public is not protected under the Fourth Amendment.
What is a Seizure?
A seizure, for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, is a meaningful interference with a person’s possessory interest in personal property. If you are pulled over by a police officer, your person, along with the other passengers are essentially seized. Likewise, if a police officer takes possession of your license, you may be considered seized for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. You are not required to abandon your personal property. Even when a law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion (reasonable, articulable facts), they may not halt your movement for even a second longer than necessary to either confirm or dispel his suspicion.
The Constitution has evolved since the days of our Founding Fathers. The Constitution has been long buried by modern case law and Supreme Court interpretation. The current legal principles can be pervasive and complex. If you feel that you have been subjected to an unreasonable search or seizure and are facing criminal prosecution, call Kenneth Padowitz, P.A. for a free consultation and find out how to best defend your rights.