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The Fourth Amendment and a criminal trial

On Behalf of | Apr 29, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

When a Texas police officer knocks on someone’s door and asks to step inside the home to have a look around, does he or she have to allow it? If a person is pulled over in a traffic stop, and the patrol officer wants to search the car or asks the driver to empty his or her pockets, must the driver comply?  What if police arrest someone and seize items from his or her person or property, and prosecutors want to submit those items as evidence in a criminal trial; will the court allow it?  

There is not a specific, standard answer to these questions. In some cases, yes, a person must permit police to search his or her vehicle, person or private property. However, a person does not necessarily have to consent to a search. Further, there have been many criminal cases in the past where a portion or all of the proposed evidenced has been deemed inadmissible due to exclusionary rules, which pertain to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

The Fourth Amendment protects people against unlawful search and seizure 

In the United States, a person has a right to expect privacy in certain circumstances. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects this right; more specifically, it protects people against unlawful searches or seizures, the latter of which includes detainments and arrests. In most cases, police must be able to demonstrate probable cause (reasonable grounds) to arrest someone, such as a person pulled over in a traffic stop who fails a field sobriety test.  

How does the exclusionary rule apply in a criminal trial? 

If a Fourth Amendment violation has taken place (an unlawful search and seizure), a judge might not allow the items that were seized to be used to incriminate the defendant. Anyone in Texas who has been arrested and is concerned about a possible personal rights violation may request a meeting with a criminal law attorney. Such an attorney can review the events that occurred before, during and following the arrest to determine if there are grounds to challenge admissibility of evidence or to request a case dismissal.