Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure Protections

We live in a society that allows us to walk down our New York City streets as we please. We sit in our cars to watch the sun set or rise as we please. In our homes, we lay in our beds or we drink our coffee or tea staring out our windows as we please without unwanted police interference into our daily lives. We are able to do these activities because of our Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure protections guaranteed under the United States Constitution.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that:

“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.”

 

Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure Violations

Many people in New York City are frisked, searched and arrested in police investigations every year. What most don’t know is that they have rights against unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment – even if they were guilty of a crime. For instance:

1. An arrest is deemed unlawful if a reasonable person could not have an honest and strong suspicion that the defendant was guilty. This is known as not having probable cause for the arrest.
2. Even a search with a warrant is deemed unlawful if the search goes beyond what was prescribed in the warrant – termed beyond the scope of the authority.
3. A search without a warrant is unlawful without the necessary probable cause.
4. A frisk can be unlawful if the police officer does not have specific and articulable facts that the suspect is armed or dangerous. As mentioned in Terry v. Ohio and its progeny.
5. Without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, a stop can be found unlawful and the arrest and any evidence recovered will be suppressed.

 

What We Can Do If Your Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure Protections Are Violated

In effect, if an unlawful search and seizure was conducted, a competent criminal defense attorney can apply to the court to have a Map or Dunaway hearing. Here the criminal defense attorney will cross-examine the police in order to demonstrate to the court that the police did not meet the legal standard for the search. If the judge decides in favor of the defendant, than it’s possible under the Exclusionary Rule, that the evidence from the unlawful search will be excluded from the trial.
However, it is important to remember that criminal cases are all different and that individual circumstances of each case will play a major part in whether the search and seizure was lawful or if evidence can be excluded.

You must remember that the Fourth Amendment also provides for searches and seizures that are legal. What this means is that the police can abrogate a defendant’s concerns over privacy in his/her car or home etc. if the police have probable cause that they were able to find evidence that the defendant committed a crime and a judge issues a warrant or that the circumstances support a search without a warrant.

In virtually all circumstances, a qualified criminal defense attorney should be found in order to bring any and all police search and seizure infractions to the attention of the court in order to protect the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights.