Unique solutions for every client

When Virginia police officers conduct an illegal search

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2024 | Criminal Defense

The Fourth Amendment is a crucial federal rule that protects people from abuses of state power by expanding on the basic protections of the Constitution. Specifically, the Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and property seizures.

Police officers and others acting on behalf of the state have to abide by certain rules to conduct a search. They may need a warrant signed by a judge in many cases. Other times, probable cause or the permission of the subject of the search can make a search legal. If the situation does not involve a warrant, permission or probable cause, then the search that officers performed may have been illegal.

Illegal searches produce unusable evidence

Many police officers have an incentive to search aggressively in pursuit of information that can justify an arrest or increase the chances of securing a criminal conviction. Some officers knowingly violate people’s Fourth Amendment rights because they want to gather enough evidence to arrest or prosecute that person.

However, the act of violating someone’s rights may render what evidence police officers uncover unusable. The exclusionary rule allows a defense attorney to ask the courts to suppress certain evidence. Provided that a lawyer can convince the judge that police officers violated someone’s Fourth Amendment rights during a search, any evidence obtained from that search may not be useful.

The courts may have to exclude any evidence obtained illegally or through a violation of an individual’s rights. In some cases, the state’s inability to use certain evidence could lead to the dismissal of criminal charges. Evidence of potentially impaired driving found after an illegal traffic stop would be an example. Other times, the suppression of certain evidence may lead to a viable defense strategy that could help someone raise questions about their involvement in a crime or whether they had any intent to break the law.

Learning about the rules that govern criminal investigations and court cases can help those planning a criminal defense strategy. Those who can exclude some evidence from their trials may have an easier time proving that they should not face consequences for allegedly violating the law.