In many cases involving drugs, law enforcement officials break into a house or search a vehicle and find illegal substances and/or drug paraphernalia. Prosecutors then build their drug crime case against the alleged perpetrator on the evidence found during that search. However, not all searches are in accordance with the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects Americans from unlawful searches and seizures.
Generally, the Fourth Amendment prohibits a police officer from searching an individual or their property without a valid search warrant, valid arrest warrant, consent from the individual or probable cause. Probable cause means that the officer had reasonable belief that the person committed a crime or that the place to be searched contained evidence of a crime.
If the officer does have a warrant, the police are limited to searching only the place specified and the items specified in the warrant. However, if the evidence is in plain sight of the officer, he or she may seize it even if they do not have a warrant.
If an illegal search and seizure is conducted, all evidence collected during that search will be subjected to the exclusionary rule. In other words, prosecutors may not use the illegally obtained evidence against the defendant in court. The judge will make the final decision on whether to exclude the evidence once prosecutors and defense attorneys have given their reasons for including or excluding the evidence.
Many California prosecutors’ cases have fallen apart when evidence obtained during an illegal search is excluded from trial. A defense attorney in your area can determine if your Fourth Amendment rights were violated due to an unlawful search.