If you are stopped or searched by a law enforcement official and charged with a criminal offense, it is important to know that you have rights under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In many cases, if a law enforcement official does not comply with requirements for a stop or a search under the Fourth Amendment, the charges against the defendant can be dropped. Fourth Amendment protections are taken very seriously. However, sometimes a person who has been charged with a criminal offense such as a DUI, weapons charges, or drug crimes does not realize that his or her Fourth Amendment rights have been violated.
The Fourth Amendment assures that American citizens have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, homes, and cars. What does this mean in practice? The following are five things you should know.
Reasonable Suspicion is Necessary for a Stop
Under the Fourth Amendment, a law enforcement officer must have what is known as reasonable suspicion to stop you. This means pulling over your vehicle or stopping you if you are walking on the street, and it applies to “stop and frisk” situations. While it can be difficult to show that a police officer did not have reasonable suspicion, this may be a defense if there was no clear reason to stop you.
Police Must Have Probable Cause for a Search
If the police or other law enforcement officials want to search your person or your vehicle, for example, they must have what is known as probable cause under the Fourth Amendment. Simply suspecting that you may be hiding something is not enough for probable cause. Keep in mind that you never have to consent to a search under the Fourth Amendment if you are asked.
Searches Include Taking a Breath or Blood Test
A “search” under the Fourth Amendment includes taking material from your body, such as a blood test to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
Violation of Your Fourth Amendment Rights can be a Defense
If a law enforcement official violates your Fourth Amendment rights, this violation could be a complete defense to the charges you are facing. To be clear, if a law enforcement official obtains the one clear piece of evidence needed to charge you—such as drugs or a weapon—through an unlawful search under the Fourth Amendment, the charges against you may also be unlawful.
Fourth Amendment Does Not Protect Against Searches Under Some Circumstances
There are some circumstances in which Fourth Amendment rights are significantly curtailed. For example, when you go to an airport to take a flight and pass through a security checkpoint, you do not have the same expectation of privacy that you have if you are in your own home, walking on a sidewalk, inside a restaurant, or in your car. Accordingly, when you enter an airport (or certain other places), you give up certain expectations of privacy.
Contact a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges, you need to have an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney on your side. From fighting DUI charges to developing defense strategies in narcotics and weapons cases, our team has years of experience tailoring defense strategies to meet the needs of each case. Contact the Law Offices of Jonathan Minkus to learn more about how we can assist you.