The United States Constitution and the Supreme Court provide us all with important protections against police overreach and abuse by outlining the protocol that police must follow when arresting someone. If the police fail to follow these protocols, any arrest they make or evidence they seize will be invalid. It’s important to know your rights, so that you can recognize when a police officer has overstepped their bounds in your case.
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects residents of the country from unreasonable searches and seizures. This means that the police cannot simply stop and search you for no reason, and they cannot search your home, car, bag or other protected areas unless certain circumstances are satisfied.
For example, in order to search your house, police typically need a valid search warrant issued by a judge or magistrate. If they arrest you, or if you give them permission, they can search your person and car.
They can also search your car if they have a reasonable suspicion that the search will reveal evidence of a crime. However, that reasonable suspicion can’t just be a guess – it has to be based on real, probable cause.
The probable cause requirement
Probable cause is more than a hunch. It’s a reasonable belief based on something the police officer saw, that made them believe that it was likely that you had evidence of a crime in your possession.
If the police seize alleged evidence of a crime from your person or vehicle, but their initial stop wasn’t justified by probable cause, you can challenge the seizure of evidence as a violation of your constitutional rights. If you win that challenge, the court will not allow the prosecution to admit that evidence against you.
Having a conviction for drug use or possession on your record can have major consequences that can follow you around for your entire life. That’s why it’s important to work hard to prepare a rock-solid defense to present from the moment you get the charge.