Did a Police Search Violate Your Rights?

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Police are not allowed to do anything they would like when they pull you over, stop you in the street, or knock on your door. The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution1 prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures of people and places, and this prohibition has developed throughout our nation’s history into a significant body of case law that defines and explains what makes a search or a seizure reasonable or unreasonable.

Warrantless Searches not Based on Probable Cause are Presumed Unreasonable

Generally speaking, law enforcement must have a warrant or probable cause to search you or a place in which you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, like your home, your bag, or your vehicle. That being said, there are many exceptions to this rule. For example, if police can establish that they had a reasonable belief that the loss or destruction of evidence was imminent, they may be able to circumvent the warrant requirement. Here are some situations in which a search or seizure would likely be deemed unreasonable:

You are pulled over for speeding and the police search your car on “hunch”

The police force their way into your home without probable cause and conduct a search

The police stop you on the street, detain you, and force you to empty your pockets

Whether or not the police had probable cause is the question on which many of these cases turn. Probable cause exists that the police have a reasonable basis to believe that a crime has been committed or there is evidence of a crime in a particular place. For example, the smell of marijuana wafting from your car would likely constitute probable cause – the fact that you were in a neighborhood where known drug users lived would not.

What Happens if the Police Violate Your Rights?

If police conduct an unconstitutional search or seizure and uncover evidence of a crime, the evidence that they find may be suppressed (kept out of court) by the exclusionary rule.2 In many cases, the fact that evidence is suppressed will force the prosecution to drop its case or make it much more difficult for the state to obtain a conviction.

Contact a Baltimore Criminal Defense Lawyer Today for a Free Consultation

If the police violated your constitutional rights during a search, it may result in the case against you being dropped. As a result, you should always have your case reviewed by an experienced attorney. To schedule a free case evaluation with Maryland attorney Randolph Rice, call our office today at (410) 694-7291 or contact us online.

1 https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/fourth_amendment

2 https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/exclusionary_rule


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