What are your rights when the police stop you while driving and want to search your car? What are your rights when the police want to search your property? What happens when the police make a search that they do not have a right to make?
Most people have an encounter with the police when they are driving or are a passenger in a car. The encounter can occur when a police cruiser pulls you over. Before the police make a traffic stop, they must have a reasonable suspicion that a crime or traffic violation has occurred. Reasonable suspicion is just that, a suspicion. However, a traffic stop has to be based on more than a hunch. The police must be able to cite facts that would lead a reasonable police officer to believe a crime was committed. For example, if a car is traveling 70 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone, that is an easy call; reasonable suspicion exists for a stop. If a car is weaving and hits the center line, reasonable suspicion exits.
However, not every stop meets the criteria for reasonable suspicion. Sometimes racial profiling is involved in a stop. For example, a police officer observes a car with young black males late at night. He stops the car. Upon approaching the car, the police officer smells marijuana. Because the odor of marijuana is detected, the police officer has a reason to further investigate. During the investigation, he finds marijuana. The reasonable suspicion now turns into probable cause for arrest. However, since the initial stop was not based on reasonable suspicion and the stop was improper, an attorney can move to suppress the evidence that was found because of an improper stop.
The courts have given police relatively broad power to search an automobile once a stop is made. Police can search for weapons when there is reasonable suspicion of a crime and that a weapon is present. In a traffic stop, the police can search the driver and passenger area for weapons that could be used to harm the officer. If the police find other items that are illegal, those items can be admitted in court. The police can also do a pat down when they have reasonable suspicion a person is armed and poses a threat.
The key issue is whether the initial stop was valid and reasonable suspicion existed for the subsequent search. W hat constitutes reasonable suspicion for a legal stop varies on the details of each case. Moreover, there are limits to the weapons search. Each case is different and it is important to consult a good experienced criminal law attorney.
People have greater protection from searches in their homes than in motor vehicles. To enter a home or a shed adjacent to the house, the police generally need a search warrant issued by a judicial official.
Before a search warrant is issued, a sworn affidavit must be submitted by the authorities, and the magistrate must find there is probable cause to believe the items are present at the place to be searched. Search warrants typically are for items providing evidence that a crime has been committed. State statutes give the particularities of the how search warrants are issued. However, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution requires that search warrants must state with “particularity describing the place to be searched, and the person or thing to be seized.”
A good Fort Worth illegal search lawyer will check to insure that the proper process and evidence was used to issue a search warrant. Affidavits must be from credible sources and explain how the affiants know a particular item is present in the place to be searched. The lawyer will examine the record to determine if the affidavits submitted meet the burden of proof needed to issue a search warrant.
If the police enter your house or other protected property where you have an expectation of privacy without a valid search warrant or some legal exception, evidence they gather can be suppressed. That means it cannot be used as evidence against you in court.
Whether it is a motor vehicle or a house, the police will often ask permission to search if they do not have a search warrant. Remember, this is America, and you have the right to say no. If you voluntarily let the police enter, anything they find can be admitted.
Here are the six points to take away:
- The police need reasonable suspicion to stop an automobile.
- Evidence seized coming from an improper traffic stop is inadmissible in court.
- Police need a search warrant to search your house and property where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
- Evidence gained during an illegal or improper search of a building is inadmissible in court.
- A key exception to the need for a search warrant is when a crime is being committed in plain sight.
- If the police ask permission to enter your house, automobile or other property that you own, you have the right to say no.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can advise you on whether the evidence seized in your case has a chance of being suppressed. Bryan Hoeller, Fort Worth illegal search lawyer, can be reached at 877-208-3382.