Under the United States Constitution, it is illegal for the government to make what are legally considered to be “unreasonable” searches and seizures. A search must be made with either a warrant issued by a judge or be based on the law enforcement officer’s reasonable belief that evidence of a crime is present.
The idea of a judicial warrant is a key part of restraining government overreach on the property of the people and their privacy. In Colonial times, the royal British government had the power to issue warrants against people without actual evidence or a reasonable belief that a crime had been committed. American colonists found these warrants to be highly unfair and intrusive. As a result, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is designed to address this issue by requiring the government to issue a warrant on reasonable belief that evidence of a crime will be found in the course of the search.
If the police do not follow through in obtaining a warrant, and do not obtain evidence based on a reasonable belief that there was evidence that had to be obtained immediately, then the evidence will not be admissible in court. Under this principle, known as the exclusionary rule, courts will not admit any evidence related to an illegal search and seizure of a defendant’s property. This is to serve as a check on the power of the police in conducting criminal searches of private property.
Searches of Cars
Under the Fourth Amendment, different types of personal property are given different levels of privacy rights. For instance, an individual walking down a street a block away from where a store was robbed is likely to have a lower expectation of privacy than someone sitting on his couch in his own home. Similarly, individuals in cars generally have a lower expectation of privacy than someone in his own house. Police often stop cars for various reasons. If during the course of a traffic stop the police officer reasonably believes that some sort of crime is or evidence of a recently committed crime is present, then he may be able to initiate a search of the car to look for evidence of a crime.
Police however still must have a reasonable belief that some law was broken before stopping a car; they cannot simply stop cars without any reason at all.
In the course of a traffic stop, all of the people in the car, passengers and the driver alike, are “seized” in that they have been blocked from proceeding about their day. As such, individuals who have been stopped at a DUI checkpoint or at a routine traffic stop have the right to question the constitutionality of the stop.
Contact an Experienced Lawyer For DUI Help
If you have any questions about your legal rights as a criminal defendant, it is critical that you reach out to a lawyer for assistance. The Bateman Law Firm is prepared to assist you with your case if you need legal defense in Greenville or the rest of South Carolina. Reach out to us today for a consultation on your case.