The 4th Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches by law enforcement of your home, person, or vehicle. When you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, police officers do not have the right to simply come in and invade your privacy with a search whenever they want. Instead, they must first meet certain requirements, such as having a search warrant, in order for a search to be lawful.
Plain View and protective Sweep Exceptions
There are certain exceptions under which a search may still be lawful and justified without a search warrant. One of the most used exceptions is called the “plain view exception,” which is much like it sounds. If an officer walks up to a car and there is clearly an open beer in the cup holder, the officer can make an arrest and confiscate the beer as evidence without violating any rights because the evidence was in “plain view.”
There are also exceptions under which an officer can search for items not in plain view without a warrant and without consent. This limited exception is referred to as a “protective sweep.” In a protective sweep, an officer is searching other areas that are not in plain view to determine whether there are any weapons or other items that may put the officer in danger. This is a common act when there is another person around who may harm the officer. In one recent case out of New Jersey, the court allowed a protective sweep when there was only one person because the driver was repeatedly reaching in between the seats nervously and the officer believed there was a weapon hidden between the seats.
Law enforcement officers violate the constitutional rights of individuals more often than you may imagine. For this reason, examining whether a search was legal is a primary defense strategy for skilled criminal defense attorneys. If a search was not legal, we can work to have all evidence resulting from that search suppressed so it cannot be used against you in your criminal case. This can significantly affect the outcome of your case and often results in a dismissal of all charges. For example, if drugs were found in your car through an illegal search by police and those drugs are kept out of court, the prosecutor likely has no additional evidence of your drug possession and, therefore, can no longer pursue the charges.
Call a New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney for More Information Today
If you need help with a criminal case, please call the Law Offices of Edward V. Murachanian at 732-477-3030 for help today.