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The Exclusionary Rule: Illegal Searches

The exclusionary rule prohibits the government from using illegally obtained evidence to prove a criminal defendant’s guilt. This rule can be very helpful in defending against possession charges such as Criminal Possession of a Weapon or Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, since exclusion of the contraband will often lead to dismissal of the charges.

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At Tilem & Associates, our lawyers have successfully argued hundreds of suppression motions!

When is evidence illegally seized? Experienced New York criminal attorneys know that an illegal seizure occurs when evidence is seized without a search warrant and no exceptions to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement are legally applicable. The following is a list of some of the many exceptions to the Fourth Amendment requirement that the police secure a search warrant based upon probable cause before executing a search: exigent circumstances, consent, search incident to arrest, border searches, special needs, inventory search, plain view, automobile exception, hot pursuit, probation and parole searches, stop and frisk, and school searches. Each exception relies on a different legal test to determine if the search is lawful.

In nearly every case where the police execute a search without a warrant, attorneys can challenge the validity of the search. Our team of experienced trial lawyers can be the difference between having illegally obtained evidence admitted against you or excluded during your case.

Illegal seizures of evidence are commonplace in criminal investigations. If a criminal defendant has been arrested, one of the best strategies an experienced New York criminal defense lawyer has is to attack the constitutional validity of the searches. If the police illegally seize evidence and the evidence is thrown out because a of a well-argued suppression motion, a defendant may have their charges dismissed, or the loss of evidence may damage the prosecutor’s case so badly that a favorable plea bargain can be secured.

Why are there so many exceptions to the warrant requirement? Doesn’t the Constitution say that the warrants can only be issued where there’s probable cause? Don’t Americans have a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures? Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has carved out so many exceptions to the warrant requirement that it is now a shell of what the framers of the Constitution intended it to be. Before the Revolutionary War, American subjects of the British crown were subjected to general warrants that allowed the British soldiers to search their homes and papers and seize their property. The American colonists rebelled against the British crown to be free of these oppressive and intrusive searches. Today, it is more critical than ever that criminal defendants stand up for their right to be free of unreasonable searches.

The following hypothetical scenario illustrates an example of an illegal search. Officers Burge and Pantaleo knock at the door of the home of suspected money counterfeiters Frank, Charlie, Dennis, and Dee. When Frank approaches the door, he asks who it is. Officer Burge says “New York Police Department, open up.” Frank asks if the police officers have a warrant. Officer Burge says no. Frank says “Go eat some doughnuts and leave us alone. Come back with a warrant, I ain’t saying nothing to you.” Incensed, Officers Pantaleo and Burge kick in the door and search the house. They find special ink, counterfeit plates with the designs of US currency on them, a printing press, and drugs. Frank, Charlie, Dennis, and Dee are arrested, and put on trial for counterfeiting and drug possession.

At trial, Frank, Charlie, Dennis, and Dee’s lawyer argues that, since the police did not have probable cause, only suspicion that the defendants were counterfeiting money that they had no possible justification for entering the home without a warrant. The judge agrees and excludes the evidence seized by the police officers. Since the strongest evidence against Frank, Charlie, Dennis, and Dee can no longer be used against them in their case in chief, the prosecutor withdraws the charges and the case is dismissed.

If you believe you may have been the victim of an illegal search you need experienced New York criminal defense lawyers to fight to suppress that evidence. Call us today for a free consultation.

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