When you’re being arrested for a crime, it’s common to feel scared and confused—and even like your rights are being completely violated. For some individuals, this happens when the arresting officer performs a search of your property or person during the process. You will likely have many questions about this. Specifically, you can and should inquire as to whether the search was done legally. This fact can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of your case.
If you’ve recently been arrested and have questions like “Do I have to give my consent to be searched?” or, “Can a search and seizure be legal if there is no warrant?” reach out to me at Darryl A. Stallworth Law Office. I’m proud to represent clients in Oakland, California as well as Alameda County, Northern California, San Francisco, and the Bay Area
The Bill of Rights, written in 1789, laid out essential individual rights for Americans, and even today we still depend on these same protections. One of these is the Fourth Amendment which outlines your protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” Your Fourth Amendment rights are some of the most commonly cited in the criminal justice system since the evidence that’s found from law enforcement searches can be a critical component in proving your guilt or innocence.
Based on the Fourth Amendment, any searches and seizures performed by law enforcement need to be done either with your consent, with probable cause, or with a warrant. If an arrest is already underway this may mean that the officer smelled alcohol in a car or saw a weapon through an open window. In other cases, a search warrant would have to be obtained from a judge authorizing law enforcement to search a specific person or place.
The term “probable cause” can be a bit vague since it’s essentially up to the discretion of the officer—but this can be contested later in court. If the officer feels they would likely find incriminating evidence if they performed a search and can show evidence to prove this, then they likely have “probable cause.”
To use the above example, if an officer is able to clearly see (without performing a search) incriminating evidence, they may be able to use this as probable cause and search the person or property further. As another example, if an officer views someone handing a bag of drugs to another person on a public street and take money in return, they have the authority to search the two people even if they don’t obtain a warrant first.
One last but important component of your protection from unreasonable searches and seizures is known as the exclusionary rule. This law states that any evidence that’s been obtained by illegal means cannot be used against you in a court of law. This means that a judge can exclude evidence from your case if law enforcement didn’t follow the proper laws to get it. This remains true even if the evidence has already been presented to a jury. In these cases, the judge will direct the jury to disregard the evidence when deciding the verdict.
If you live in or around the Oakland, California area and feel your Fourth Amendment rights may have been violated in a recent arrest or simply want to learn more about the search and seizure process, reach out to me. As a criminal defense attorney at Darryl A. Stallworth Law Office, I’m ready to listen to your story and help you find a path forward.