What happens when the police conduct an illegal bodily search?

On Behalf of | Apr 23, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Somebody who has been accused of criminal activity has the right to defend against those allegations. By partnering with an attorney, criminal defendants can prove that there are issues with the state’s case or establish an alibi during a trial that proves they could not have been present when a crime occurred.

Defense strategies sometimes focus on countering the state’s evidence or providing unique insight into the case. Other times, defense attorneys can keep certain evidence out of court entirely. The Fourth Amendment protects someone from unreasonable searches and seizures. If police officers violate the rights of an individual or the law, a lawyer could ask the courts to exclude inappropriate evidence from a trial.

Oftentimes, what police officers find when physically searching an individual provides the cornerstone for the prosecutor’s case. Can someone exclude evidence found in their backpack or pockets because of an inappropriate search?

There are limits on bodily searches

Different standards established through court precedent and state law apply to different types of police conduct. The decision to physically search an individual could lead to questions about civil rights violations. An officer may not have had a justification to physically search someone. Officers can potentially stop and converse with people when they suspect potential criminal activity. However, the right to search someone physically only applies in specific scenarios.

Police officers can legally pat down or frisk someone before taking them into state custody. If an officer does not yet have a reason to arrest someone, then they may need permission to search someone’s body. Without that permission, a frisk or pat down is potentially illegal. The only justification for such searches is a reasonable suspicion that someone had a dangerous weapon. If an officer suspects contraband like drugs, that is not an adequate reason to physically search someone’s body. If a police officer does not follow best practices and violates someone’s rights, then the evidence uncovered during the search may not be useful in a criminal case.

Understanding what constitutes a civil rights violation can help people who have been accused of wrongdoing to prepare a more effective criminal defense strategy. Those who review the evidence and the situation leading to an arrest with a lawyer can potentially develop the best strategy possible for fighting criminal charges.


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