The Fourth Amendment provides citizens with essential protections against overzealous or corrupt law enforcement by restricting the circumstances that allow police to perform a search and to seize property. Much progress has been made in getting law enforcement to follow the rules the courts have laid down, but unfortunately, there are still far too many examples of police behavior that constitute harassment. If you have been subjected to an unreasonable traffic stop or made to endure a baseless search of your person, car or home, McGuire & Associates can help. We can protect you from criminal prosecution that might result from an illegal search, and in some cases, obtain monetary damages for the humiliation you’ve suffered.
To protect the public, law enforcement must have a reasonable right to search people and premises to discover evidence of criminal activity. However, without the Fourth Amendment, agents of the government could simply come into your home, turn everything upside down, and take away anything they regarded as evidence. To prevent that, the Fourth Amendment puts several restrictions on the government’s power to search a person or premises:
Although the Fourth Amendment has existed since the U.S. Constitution was ratified, it did not always afford much protection. An unreasonable search might be technically illegal, but if police happened to find evidence of a crime, there was nothing to stop them from using it in court. This created a perverse incentive for police officers to violate citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights. Fortunately, the Supreme Court put a stop to that in 1914, by adopting a remedy called the exclusionary rule. From that point forward, when an illegal search produced evidence, the court could rule that evidence inadmissible.
Most Fourth Amendment cases arise from warrantless searches. Law enforcement claims the search fits the exception, and the defense claims the facts do not support the exception. Exceptions to the warrant requirement include:
These days, Fourth Amendment disputes often arise over traffic stops and stop-and-frisk actions that are the result of racial profiling rather than reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.
However, the worst-case scenario can be a legal but mistaken search that prompts armed DEA agents to break down your door and point semiautomatic weapons at your family. In such a case, a search can be unreasonable even if the agency has a warrant. The courts must judge whether the information the agency had was reliable enough for a prudent person to swear out a warrant.
If you have been the target of an illegal search, you can rely on McGuire & Associates to assert your civil rights and get results. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 334-651-8891 or contact our Montgomery office online. Our office is located at 31 Clayton Street, convenient to I-85 and I-65.