Do you ever feel that a police officer or other law enforcement official overstepped his or her bounds? It is not an uncommon feeling. In fact, many individuals accused of crimes feel that way. In some cases, if authorities failed to follow proper protocol, their actions may be illegal. The Fourth Amendment guarantees Arkansas residents the right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures in places where they have an expectation of privacy — even in the realm of criminal law.
So, how does the Fourth Amendment help those accused of crimes? How can one exercise his or her Fourth Amendment rights?
Illegal search and seizure
When it comes to criminal law, the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from illegal search and seizure. This means that a police officer must have a legal reason to stop or physically apprehend a suspect and search his or her person or property. This also means that law enforcement authorities cannot seize items as evidence without sufficient cause or without court approval.
Fourth Amendment applies under very specific circumstances
Fourth Amendment protections apply under very specific circumstances. It all depends on:
- How the detention or arrest of a person occurred
- The nature of the crime
- The details of the place searched
- How a search was ultimately conducted
Anyone may choose to exercise his or her Fourth Amendment rights. It doesn’t matter if police detained you while you were walking down the street, if you were in your car and pulled over for a routine traffic stop, if your business is under investigation or if you were arrested while in your home. If you feel that law enforcement officials violated your rights, you may be able to use Fourth Amendment protections to try to help your case.
If the officer who detained or arrested you, or who searched your or your property, did so without cause or proper approval, any evidence obtained from the search and seizure may not be admissible in court. Evidence could be anything including:
- A confession
- Biological material
- Physical property
- Other assets
Getting any of these things removed as evidence could prove helpful to one’s case.
Not sure, ask
If you are not sure if you are a victim of a Fourth Amendment rights violation, ask. It may become quite clear after a careful review of your case. If you and your legal counsel believe that, yes, your rights have been violated, you can take the steps necessary to file a complaint in court and seek to have your criminal case dismissed or at least seek to have any charges filed against you reduced.