The intricacies of law usually only interest those in the field and the people who bump up against the legal system after an arrest. Not everything law enforcement does is entirely legal and aboveboard, however, and knowing a few facts about arrests and searches might influence your decision to accept a plea bargain. To find out how the legality of a search could affect your case, read on.
The Importance of a Search
Law enforcement searches provide evidence of a crime. Without evidence, there may be no crime. The more evidence available, the easier it is to prove a defendant guilty. Presenting a given subject with evidence that they committed a crime can lead to confessions, plea deal agreements, and successful trials. In some cases, a search turns up not just evidence of a crime, but the person accused of committing the crime and/or an alleged crime victim. Additionally, particularly during roadside stops, searches protect law enforcement from the presence of weapons.
Understanding Search Warrants
There is more than one method of obtaining the right to search a person, their vehicle, their home, and so on. Search warrants are actual pieces of paper obtained after law enforcement uses an affidavit explaining the need to perform a search to a judge. If the judge notes sufficient cause for conducting the search, the warrant is approved. This is only one way to execute a search, however.
Incident to an Arrest
If law enforcement has reason to believe that they will end up arresting an individual as a result of a search, they may be able to execute the search without consulting a judge or anyone else. This is known as having probable cause. If your criminal defense attorney can show that no probable cause existed prior to the search, the state's entire case is at risk. Evidence can often be "thrown out" if it's obtained due to an illegal search. Probable cause often means that there are things that strongly arouse the suspicions of law enforcement.
Note this example of a roadside stop that leads to an arrest. You are stopped because of an unlit tag light. This minor equipment issue could prompt a verbal warning, a written warning, or a ticket. While standing outside the vehicle, the officer notes marijuana residue between the seats. This residue constitutes probable cause to search the vehicle because if there is more marijuana found, you can possibly be arrested. This is, on the face of it, probable cause for a search, and anything found can be used as evidence. However, what might happen if you insist that the substance is tobacco and you show proof that you use a pipe to smoke that tobacco? The need to search is now not so clear or legal.
The need for proper representation is unquestionable. Speak to a criminal law attorney, like those at the Johnson Motinger Greenwood Law Firm, about your case right away.Share