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How the Fourth Amendment protects your rights

When you are stopped by the police, you may feel powerless. However, the U.S. Constitution provides certain rights to all of us, and prohibits the police from certain abusive practices.

The Fourth Amendment is one of the most important of these constitutional protections, and it comes up often in criminal defense cases. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable search and seizure. Over the years, courts have sometimes struggled to determine what practices are "unreasonable," but they have agreed that if a search or seizure was unreasonable, then evidence obtained in the search or seizure cannot be admitted in court against the defendant.

This aspect of the Fourth Amendment is very important for those accused of drug crimes. A common scenario involves a defendant who was found to be carrying some amount of drugs in his or her vehicle during a routine traffic stop. A skilled criminal defense lawyer will review the circumstances of the arrest, looking for signs the police acted unlawfully and violated the defendant's right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure.

If the lawyer can show that the police violated the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights in searching the vehicle, the court will suppress the evidence, meaning that the prosecution cannot use the evidence against the defendant. In a typical drug possession case, the drugs themselves are the prosecution's most powerful evidence. Without the ability to enter the drugs into evidence, the prosecution generally can't win a conviction.

Everyone who is accused of a crime has the right to a defense. If you have been accused of drug crimes, it is important to speak to a lawyer with experience in criminal defense.

Source:, "Search and Seizures and the 4th Amendment," Accessed March 13, 2017

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