Unlawful Search & Seizure Under the 4th Amendment

The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:

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.

The 4th Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure rests on the right to privacy proving protection against unlawful and abusive law enforcement practices that would invade that right to privacy.

The protections of the 4th Amendment are broad and complex. Entire books are written on the 4th Amendment, and there are legal scholars that spend much of their careers studying and writing about the 4th Amendment. Many of the most important cases in criminal law and criminal procedure derive from the 4th Amendment as do the rights of criminal defendants.

The importance of the protections afforded under the 4th Amendment cannot be over-stated. The 4th Amendment protects at every stage of a criminal case from the initial stop by the officer, to the search of the suspect‘s vehicle, home, property or other belongings both before, during or after the arrest, and of course to the arrest itself.

The 4th Amendment provides protection in all variety of encounters with law enforcement. The protections stretch from the petty shoplifting offense, to DWI/DUI stops and investigations to the most serious felony offenses.

Violations of the 4th Amendment have serious consequences including the exclusion of evidence seized illegally. Often, the exclusion of illegally seized evidence will result in the dismissal of the charges in whole or in part.

Should the prosecutor refuse to dismiss based upon the lack of evidence, the exclusion of the illegally seized evidence can be an insurmountable obstacle for the prosecution at trial.


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