Imagine a scenario where you are driving in your car late at night. Unbeknownst to you, you have a taillight out. A police officer pulls you over for the traffic violation of having a broken taillight. Naturally you are nervous during this encounter, as most people are when stopped by police. Nevertheless, you produce your valid driver’s license and vehicle registration without incident. The officer however claims that you’re nervous behavior is suspicious and asks you to step out of the vehicle.
In doing so, the officer pats you down for his own safety, and he feels a small object in your pants pocket. The officer reaches in to grab the object, which turns out to be a small baggie containing illegal drugs. You are placed under arrest and charged with drug possession.
Versions of this scenario – traffic stop, search and seizure, arrest – are extremely common in criminal cases, particularly those involving drug charges. However, these cases also present the opportunity to challenge the actions of the police where they may have been in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.
The Fourth Amendment protects personal privacy and your right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Specifically the Fourth Amendment protects individuals who are seized, in the form of a stop or arrest, and further protects against police searches of places where an individual has a legitimate expectation of privacy, such as their person, clothing, vehicle and home.
The degree of protection provided varies depending on the nature and circumstances of each case. However, if a person accused for a crime’s Fourth Amendment rights have been violated, this could result in the suppression of all of the evidence obtained from the illegal search or seizure. This is why it is can be vital to consult with a skilled criminal defense lawyer who can help ensure that any and all Constitutional rights are being protected during the course of the legal process.
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