What many people fail to realize is that all citizens of the United States have a Fourth Amendment right against illegal searches created by the U.S. Constitution, and any evidence that comes from an illegal search may be suppressed at trial. Florida’s constitution in Article I, Section 12, creates state law that mimics and reiterates the U.S. constitution. Evidence can only be suppressed if it is obtained from an illegal search of a person or a person’s property.
So what is an illegal search?
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution limits the power of police to make arrests, to search people and their property, and to seize objects and contraband. This amendment forms the cornerstone of search and seizure law.
The Fourth Amendment states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, an the persons or things to be seized.”
The drafters of the amendment wanted to protect us against “unreasonable” searches and seizures by state and federal law enforcement authorities. The question then becomes when is a search reasonable. A search is reasonable when the police have probable cause. Some searches, such as a search of a person’s home, require a warrant. To obtain a warrant a police officer needs enough evidence of probable cause to convince a judge or magistrate to issue a warrant.
When the Fourth Amendment Does Not Protect You
The Fourth Amendment only protects a person when he or she has a “legitimate expectation of privacy” in the place or thing searched. Courts use a two-part test to determine if a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy. The test for privacy is: (1) did the person actually expect some degree of privacy, and; (2) is the person’s expectation objectively reasonable?
Throughout the years the courts have applied this test to a variety of scenarios and the results have been surprising. For instance, a person has an expectation of privacy in a public restroom. If someone put a hidden camera in the bathroom, a court would consider this an unreasonable search of a person.
Lets use another example. Lets say Sam is driving his pickup truck down the highway and is pulled over by a highway patrolman for driving over the speed limit. While talking to the driver, the police officer sees a baggie of marijuana on the passenger seat. In this example, Sam has no reasonable expectation of privacy because the baggie was located in plain view.
In this same example, lets say the highway patrolman stops Sam for speeding and asks him to exit the vehicle. The highway patrolman proceeded to search Sam’s pockets without reasonable cause and found the baggie of marijuana. In this scenario the highway patrolman has violated Sam’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy. A criminal defense attorney can then suppress the evidence of the small baggie of marijuana at trial.
A Jacksonville criminal law attorney suppresses evidence by filing a motion to suppress evidence. This motion tells the court the evidence that should be suppressed, and the reasons why the evidence should be suppressed. For more information on how to suppress evidence in Jacksonville, Florida contact the criminal defense attorney at The Law Office of David M. Goldman PLLC.
Submitted by Thomas Morrison, Esq.