Illegal Search and Seizure and Suppression of Evidence
Residents of the United States have the right to be free from violations of civil rights as provided for in the constitution. The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Michigan constitution contains a similar protection. Defense lawyers with extensive experience filing motions to suppress evidence can protect you from a conviction based on an illegal search.
Search and seizure law, constitutional law, and the various laws dealing with suppression and dismissal for constitutional violations are highly complex and only the most skilled, experienced, and talented criminal defense lawyers have a handle on the intricacies of this area of law. Fearless and tenacious lawyers can use the Constitutions of the United States and Michigan to protect their clients from violations of their rights.
Searches With and Without a Warrant
Case law has held that the 4th Amendment requires that a warrant be supported by probable cause for a search and seizure to be legal. There are several complex exceptions to the warrant requirement and prosecutors and police will do whatever they can to convince a judge that a warrant was not necessary. Many criminal defense lawyers fail to fully appreciate and understand these intricate federal and state laws and their clients end up being unnecessarily convicted. The defense attorney’s job is to effectively and persuasively argue in court that no warrant exception applies and any evidence should be suppressed. If evidence is suppressed, that often leads to a dismissal of all charges.
Some of the recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement include exigent circumstance, searches incident to a lawful arrest, stop and frisk, consent, and plain view. Each of these exceptions, while not requiring a warrant, still requires reasonableness and probable cause. How much evidence is sufficient to make one of these exceptions apply to a warrantless search? The answer is up to the trial judge and the best chance of getting evidence suppressed is with an attorney that is highly experienced with constitutional law and someone that has a track record of winning in court.
Warrantless Stop of a Vehicle
When making a determination as to the reasonableness of a stop for a traffic violation, the United States Supreme Court has stated that an automobile stop is subject to the constitutional and must be reasonable. As a general matter, the decision to stop an automobile is reasonable where the police have reasonable suspicion to believe that a traffic violation has occurred. Reasonable suspicion means an amount of evidence that is sufficient to cause an ordinary person to have a reasonable belief that there has been a violation of the law.
In determining reasonableness, the judge must consider whether the facts known to the officer at the time of the stop would warrant a reasonable police officer to suspect a civil infraction or illegal activity. The reasonableness of an officer’s suspicion is determined case by case on the basis. If evidence is obtained in an illegal traffic stop, the evidence must be suppressed. Lawyers that routinely handle motions to suppress and dismiss have the best chance of successfully getting a judge to order the suppression of evidence and the dismissal of all charges!
Police Stop and Questioning of a Pedestrian
Under Michigan law, a person is seized when stopped by the police and does not feel free to leave or if the person is retrained. A display of authority that can result in a reasonable feeling of being unable to leave includes where the police activate their lights and siren, display weapons, block the path of a pedestrian, or if they make verbal orders to a person as they approach. Thus, when an officer approaches a person and seeks voluntary cooperation through non-coercive questioning, there is no restraint on that person’s liberty, and the person is not seized. On the other hand, if a person is physically restrained or does not reasonably feel able to leave, a seizure has occurred and it must be legal under the constitution.
“What is a Terry Stop?”
Under the Terry doctrine, if a police officer has a reasonable, articulable suspicion to believe a person has committed or is committing a crime, he or she may briefly stop that person for further investigation. The scope of any search or seizure must be limited to that which is necessary to quickly confirm or dispel the officer’s objectively supportable suspicion. Searches that exceed that which is necessary are illegal and in violation of the 4th Amendment.
Arrest Without a Warrant
To lawfully arrest a person without a warrant, a police officer must possess information demonstrating probable cause to believe that a criminal offense has occurred and that the defendant committed it. The judge determines if there is probable cause based on the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time of the arrest. Though an illegal arrest does not, by itself, automatically result in the dismissal of the charges, any evidence obtained as a result of the illegal arrest is properly suppressed.
When Consent is Not Consent
The fact that a person agreed to a search does not necessarily mean that the search is lawful. If a person is coerced, manipulated, or improperly influenced to give consent, a court may find a warrantless search invalid and suppress evidence found as a result of that search. For example, if a woman consents to a search only because the police officers threaten to take away her children, her consent is coerced and invalid. Similarly, if a man is pulled over and he consents to a search of his car only because the police threaten to call his work and tell his employer about some criminal allegation, the consent would be invalidated.
Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys – Real Fighters!
When you need a lawyer to stand up and protect your rights, the Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. is ready, willing, and able to protect and defend you. If the prosecutor and judge are fighting to put you away, we will fight even harder to protect you. If your rights have been violated, we will do whatever is necessary to expose the violation. When things get serious, and your life is on the line, you need LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C in your corner. Call us for a free consultation at (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form and a seriously experienced criminal defense lawyer will promptly contact you.