Since everyone is innocent until proven guilty, investigators and prosecutors need evidence to land a conviction. To help them along in their job, the police often try to get as much physical evidence as they can at the time of the arrest. But the question arises, “What can the police actually get, and how can they get it?”
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution states explicitly that each person is protected against “unreasonable searches and seizures” conducted by the government and against their property. This seems like a pretty nice blanket law that protects everyone from every search but the truth is a bit opposite. The word ‘unreasonable’ puts the gray area into the law.
If the police can find a reason to be suspicious of you, they can get their hands into your property or get their team into your home to search it. For example, if you are driving a car that has a similar make and model to a bank robbery suspect, that would be reason enough to pull you over, detain you, and search your entire vehicle. Or if the police has any reason to think they are in danger – a pretty subjective system – they can conduct a pat down and collect any contraband they find, even if it is a marijuana joint that posed them no harm.
The law continues to work against the average person since the Fourth Amendment will only protect you from government searches and seizures. Private security that tells you to empty your bag or pockets has every ability to do so. If they find contraband, it can be handed to the police and count as admissible evidence.
What Happens When a Search is Unlawful?
To be clear, the law is arguably skewed in favor of the police but they are not immune to accusations and can cause wrongdoing. Without a proper warrant, searches of private establishments are usually unlawful. If this can be proven in court, no matter what they found on the property, it cannot be considered admissible evidence and the jury is instructed to ignore it.
Proving that evidence was obtained illegally can be difficult. You can bet the prosecution will do all it can to retain its evidence and uphold the reputation of the police force that gathered it for them. To shift the case to your advantage, partner up with the Law Offices of Daniel A. Hochheiser. Our New York City criminal defense attorney has nearly two decades of legal experience and used to be a prosecutor, meaning he has insight to what your opposition is thinking and doing during your trial.