Fourth Amendment – Search and Seizure Limitations

Fourth Amendment

While the Fourth Amendment gives the rights to citizens from government intrusion, this comes with a limitation. When there is a justified cause, the federal or state police are allowed to search your car, your premises or other properties for stolen goods, illegal items or evidence.

However, there are certain rules that the police must follow while engaging in these searches and seizures. Here is what they can and cannot do while still upholding the Fourth Amendment of the law.

What the police are allowed to do

The Fourth Amendment allows police officers to engage in a reasonable search and seizure.

· In order for the search to be reasonable, the police need to show there is a likelihood a crime occurred and if they conduct a search, it is probable they could find either evidence or stolen goods. In this case, it is considered probable cause.

· In certain situations, it is usually necessary for the police to get a search warrant from a judge. However, in many situations, the police may conduct the search even without the warranty. Actually, most searches are normally warrantless.

The police may also search and seize goods if you do not have a legitimate expectation of privacy. This is to say that if there is no privacy interest in the evidence or items, the police could seize them and in such a case, no search has taken place.

When there is no legitimate expectation of privacy

· When the police are holding you under arrest, they are allowed to search your person as well as the immediate surroundings.

· If you are arrested at a residence, they will conduct a protective sweep and do a cursory visual inspection to check whether there is an accomplice in hiding. However, there needs to be a reasonable belief that an accomplice is or might be close by.

· They police are allowed to search without a warrant if they fear for theirs and the public’s safety.

· When the police officers arrest you, they may do an inventory search of your items, which could include your car without any warrant.

· The police may also do a warrantless search if they fear for an imminent destruction of the evidence.

· When the police are in “hot pursuit” of a suspected person who enters a private property when fleeing, the police are allowed to search the place without a warrant.

What the police are NOT allowed to do

· The police are not allowed to conduct a search without a warrant in areas that you have a reasonable expectancy of privacy unless a warrantless exception applies.

· In case the police obtain evidence through unreasonable or illegal searches, the evidence may not be used in court, which is considered an exclusionary rule.

· The police are not allowed to use evidence obtained illegally to find more evidence.

· The police are not allowed to submit an affidavit in order to get a search warrant if they do not have any reasonable belief that the statements in that affidavit are authentic.

· The police may not search a vehicle unless they reasonably suspect it contains evidence, stolen goods or illegal items. If the police confiscate a car, however, they can search it.

· Without a reasonable suspicion of a person being involved in criminal activities, the police are not allowed to frisk that person. In case there is reasonable suspicion, they are allowed to pat down the outer clothing in search of a concealed weapon.

Top 8 Mistakes to Avoid Making When Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney

Defense Attorney

One of the worst mistakes you could make when hiring a criminal defense attorney is assuming that all attorneys are the same and hiring the first one you come across or the cheapest one you find. This could cost you dearly. In some situations, it would actually be better to defend yourself than have incompetent lawyers represent you because they could bring you more harm than good.

No, am not advocating for self-representation because this is not the solution either. However, you should place more effort when hiring an attorney and hire the best possible one that will give your case the best possible outcome. Most of the time, people just know what to look for but that’s not the end of it, you should consider all the things that you should stay away from as well.

One of the most important things you should look for in a criminal defense attorney is experience in that particular jurisdiction where your case is being held. They should be not only upfront but honest with you while explaining everything to you about the case and the possible outcomes. They should be willing to listen and willing to fight the case with everything they know in order to get you off the hook or the least minimal consequences.

Herein are some of the things you need to avoid.

1. Hiring a family friend attorney simply because they offer better rates

Choosing to go with a family friend attorney simply because they are offering you a discounted price is a bad idea. This is because, in court, the will be attorneys just like any other at the same time contradicts and time issues. Of course, if the family attorney does specialize in criminal defense then you would be very lucky because you would get the feeling that they would not cheat or mislead you.
However, experience in criminal defense is the most important factor you should consider because your freedom would be on the line. A lot of things will be at stake as well and these are things you do not want to gamble with.

2. Hiring an overly-aggressive attorney

The attorney you hire should be a go-getter, no doubt. They should put time and effort in the case in order to come up with the best results. If that is how aggressive they are, well, you can hire them. However, when the attorney cannot stop gloating or boasting of how they never lose a case, which would be impossible, that would be a red flag. Depending on your case, your attorney should know when it’s not good for a case to go to trial.

Being aggressive should mean that they should push for the best deposition without being too aggressive to push the case to trial and place you in a position where you would pay thousands of dollars and end up with a result much worse than you would have gotten if they negotiated a settlement. A great attorney will always be ready to go to trial should it come to that but only because it will be the best outcome for the client and not for them.

3. Hiring an attorney out of pressure

Whatever an attorney tells you during an interview will be simply for their own interest so you could hire them. They will obviously claim to be the best in Houston, TX which every attorney will do, but this is something you should research on and decide on your own.
If after the interview they pressure you to sign with them and start asking for your credit card information, you should consider that a red flag because they would be more after their own interest than yours.

4. Hiring an attorney who guarantees a victory

When an attorney guarantees you a win, run. A criminal case or any other case for that matter is not something that can be predicted, so when they say they will win, they are either extremely dishonest or they have no idea what they are talking about. The attorney can, of course, suggest what the possible outcomes could be depending on the crime but guaranteeing an outcome means that lawyer can simply not be trusted with anything.

5. Hiring an inexperienced attorney

This is one of the most common mistakes people make. You need to understand that criminal charges are serious business and your goal is getting rid of them. Placing your freedom in the hands of a person who has no experience in criminal defense, will be dooming yourself to a lot of problems.

6. Hiring an attorney who does not specialize in criminal defense

Hiring a business lawyer or one in any other field that is not a criminal defense to defend a criminal case is a grave mistake. Criminal defense laws are complex and keep changing every now and then. You need someone who is knowledgeable and well versed in a criminal courtroom and one who will be confident when defending your case. You cannot place your life or freedom in the hands of someone who will literally not know what they will be doing simply because they will be out of their jurisdiction.

7. Failing to check for qualifications and certifications

You should not make the mistake of not checking the qualifications and certifications of the attorney you hire. Board certifications are especially important because this will guarantee you that they are well qualified to handle your case with no problems at all. Hiring an attorney who is not qualified could also prove to be expensive on your end and could land you in a lot of trouble.

8. Failing to ask for their financial policy

Different attorneys charge different rates using different systems when billing their clients. Before you go ahead and sign with an attorney, it would be wise for you to understand all the charges as well as the payment mode. When to make the payments is also a factor you should consider so you are well aware of the down payment and what it will cost you until the case is over. This will also allow you to compare prices with the different attorneys you come across.

Final thoughts

It is extremely important for you to have the right defense attorney representing you in Houston TX in order for your case to end with the best result possible. Considering the fact that you might go to jail for an unknown length of time, you will face fines and have a criminal record for the rest of your life, you should take the task of looking for the right attorney very seriously.