Everyone wants to believe that law enforcement officers who carry out arrests do so legally. Unfortunately, time and time and again people are arrested and must deal with the legal system when the search that prompted the arrest turned out to be illegal. It can be fascinating to learn what makes a search legal and that knowledge can come in handy when contemplating a plea bargain for those arrested. Read on to find out more.
What Are They Searching For?
In most cases, searches are related to evidence. To gain a conviction, evidence must be gathered and some of that evidentiary material could be in a personal vehicle or a private home. On the part of the prosecution, a case without evidence is no case at all. Evidence like a weapon, paperwork, DNA evidence, and more are useful not only when trying a case in court but also when creating a plea bargain to present to the accused. Besides the gathering of evidence for a criminal case, searches also protect law enforcement from harm, as in the case of searching a vehicle or a person for the presence of a weapon. Searches can also involve a search for a person of interest.
Do You Have a Warrant?
Law enforcement don't always have to have warrants before they perform a search. In certain situations, they can perform searches to protect themselves or in an emergency. For example, if a law enforcement officer has reason to believe that a life is in danger, they can break into a home and a search can be carried out. Additionally, if law enforcement already has an arrest warrant for an individual, they have a right to enter the premises in pursuit of an arrest. In fact, an arrest is closely connected to the way that many searches are carried out when it comes to roadside stops.
Searches Incident to Arrests
The above term means that if law enforcement has reason to believe that an arrest is imminent, they have the right to search a vehicle or home. The key component to this type of arrest is that probable cause should exist. If your criminal defense attorney is able to show that no probable cause existed, all evidence gathered is inadmissible and the case is likely toast for the state.
Here is an example of when probable cause is weak. A suspect was stopped for exceeding the speed limit. Upon observing the driver and some questioning, the officers became suspicious. A second officer approached the vehicle, opened the back door, and located crack cocaine on the floor. The cocaine was situated in such a way as to not be visible from outside the vehicle. The second officer who opened the door did not have probable cause to do so and the entire search and seizure of the drugs were inadmissible.
The subject of probable cause and the work product of an illegal search can be complex so speak to a criminal law attorney about your case right away.