When you’ve been arrested, it’s hard to recall the exact circumstances of your encounter with the police. Unfortunately, this is the moment when you should be paying the most attention — as it could determine whether your rights have been violated.
Those arrested for drug possession are often victims of illegal search and seizure, when police find themselves overeager to make an arrest. Because the consequences of conviction can be life-altering, it’s important to fight for a fair, honest process.
Here are some of the keys to understanding illegal search and seizure:
Your Fourth Amendment Rights
Under the Fourth Amendment, you have certain protections when:
- A law enforcement professional “seizes” you during an arrest.
- A law enforcement professional searches your home or belongings that hold a legitimate expectation of privacy, such as your clothing, purse, luggage, or vehicle.
The Fourth Amendment aims to prevent unlawfully seized items from being used as evidence in criminal cases. The amount of protection you receive depends on the details of the encounter.
In most cases, an officer can’t arrest you or search your property without a valid search warrant or a valid arrest warrant. Exceptions to this rule include consent of yourself or another owner/resident of your property, when an emergency is underway, when the search immediately follows the arrest of an individual, or when evidence is clearly visible.
Know What Constitutes a Search
There are two major ways to recognize when your property is being searched. First, do you have an expectation of privacy? And second, is that privacy reasonable?
For example, the vast majority of homeowners and tenants have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their home. But students in a high school may not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their lockers, as that locker belongs to the school — and thus can be accessed anytime.
It can be difficult to determine whether you have a reasonable expectation of privacy without consulting a professional. Consider speaking to a criminal defense lawyer for assistance with your case.
Recognize When a Search Warrant is Required
A search warrant is an order that has been issued by a judge or magistrate that gives permission for law enforcement to conduct a search of a person or their property. With a warrant in hand, law enforcement may seize any evidence that relates to criminal activity during a search.
Once obtained, a search warrant will most often be addressed to you, the person being searched. If any search is conducted without the delivery of a search warrant, any evidence obtained will likely be thrown out in court.
A search warrant can only be granted if law enforcement can show probable cause that a crime has occurred, and that evidence linked to the crime is located within a certain property or on a certain person.
The scope given to law enforcement by a search warrant is limited, so be sure to consult a criminal defense attorney to fully understand your rights.
Contact an Experienced Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney for Representation
Have you been arrested for illegal drug possession? Do you believe your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated? For assistance and representation, contact our team of criminal defense attorneys at Dallo Law in Oakland County by calling (248) 283-7000.