Individuals from all walks of life may find themselves facing criminal charges at some point in their lives. Sometimes, authorities use unauthorized methods to obtain evidence and issue charges based on illegal searches and seizures. If your traffic stop led to criminal drug charges, you may be wondering if the search was lawful and if it is admissible in court.
Missouri police and prosecutors take drug crimes seriously. In some cases, prosecutors will try to pressure you into taking a plea deal, but if you fell that you have a strong defense against the charges, you do not need to admit guilt. If you believe that the officers arresting you did not have probable cause to conduct a search, you may be able to use this information in your defense. The Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution provides individuals with certain protections, even when a criminal charge is a factor.
The Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure. Before a judge issues a warrant for a search or an arrest, authorities must demonstrate probable cause that a crime has been committed, that evidence of it likely exists at a particular location and that a particular person likely committed it. This is necessary because individuals have the reasonable expectation to remain secure in their homes and in their person.
Search and seizure
Probable cause applies to a search of your property and to its seizure. The reasonable belief that a crime has been committed, supported by facts, must be present before officers can search your home, vehicle or belongings. All articles remain your legal property unless police can tie them to a specific crime.
In some cases, a person can offer their consent for a search, the evidence is in plain sight or an emergency may arise during which an officer can search without meeting the probable cause threshold. In addition, a search warrant must be specific as to the locations searched and the items eligible for seizure.
Before a judge issues an arrest warrant, an officer must provide the court with a signed affidavit stating the reasons that he or she believes that a crime has been committed. Warrants are not always required for an arrest, but the arresting officer must have witnessed the criminal act in order to skip this step.
Facts and circumstances are vital factors in an arrest. An officer may not arrest you based upon a hunch. Officers may detain you for a short time while he or she investigates an issue. Should the detention become an arrest, the officer will need to demonstrate probable cause for holding you. When the facts and circumstances would lead a reasonable person to believe that a particular person committed a crime, an officer may demonstrate probable cause for the arrest.
Defending against drug charges
Determining whether an officer had a reason to believe a crime was committed, or was being committed, can be vital to your case. Whether probable cause, or a lack thereof, factored into your arrest will depend on the unique facts surrounding your situation. The issue of probable cause can play a role in your criminal defense, and by acquiring experienced help, you may be better prepared to understand the nuances of the issue.