The police do what they must to build a case against a suspect. In some situations, this means going about collecting evidence the wrong way.
The U.S. Constitution affords citizens protection against unlawful search and seizure. However, in some instances, the evidence obtained illegally winds up convicting someone. This unfortunate reality may set the stage for appeal in some instances.
What is unlawful search and seizure?
When the police suspect someone of committing a crime, they have investigative parameters within which they must work. One of these is obtaining a warrant to search a person’s home or vehicle to gather evidence. An unlawful search occurs when there is no warrant, and the police look at personal items anyway. An officer may use a vehicle stop, for instance, as a way to search a person’s vehicle. However, if the person does not give permission, the officer must get a warrant. If this does not occur, the search should cease.
What happens to evidence collected?
Evidence police collect via a warrant is valid in the eyes of the court. It can come into the case against you and help prove their case. However, evidence collected through an unlawful search may not make it to trial. Preliminary hearings and proceedings may find the evidence tossed by a judge. If the case against a person hinges on the unlawful search and subsequent seizure, a judge may dismiss it. The prosecution may or may not have leave to re-present the case should the police gather relevant and lawfully obtained evidence.
Unfortunately, people find themselves convicted of a crime in the face of an unlawful search and seizure of evidence against them. Getting the evidence suppressed is crucial to getting a reduced charge or a dismissal.